Sedgeford archeological dig unearths Anglo-Saxon malthouse
PUBLISHED: 17:08 24 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:08 24 July 2018
A team of volunteer archeologists have uncovered what could be the earliest malthouse to be found in the UK.
Working in the searing heat, history enthusiasts at the 23rd Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project (SHARP) have unearthed an Anglo-Saxon malthouse dating back to the 8th century.
The four-metre pit, clay-lined steeping floor and two ashy kilns indicate the process used thousands of years ago to soak and dry grains, which would be later sold to markets for villagers to brew homemade beer. It is an historic method still used in some breweries today.
“I’m fairly confident it is a malthouse and I’m a sceptic,” said assistant excavation director Eleanor Blakelock. “It’s one of the first we have found and one of the first we understand so clearly.
“It’s quite deep in the valley so the Norfolk landscape has protected the site and preserved it.
“It’s really exciting, a lot of people here are digging for the first time and it’s an amazing site to work on.”
Since the project began in 1996, SHARP has uncovered an 8th century cemetery, dubbed Boneyard Field, and has excavated close to 400 human remains.
The project has been able to shed some light into how Anglo-Saxons lived in the area more than 1,200 years ago.
“In the 8th century period, there was a certain amount of control by the church,” Ms Blakelock said. “Where the elite are really taking control of the people and how they live and work.
“One idea is the malthouse was run and controlled by the church and the grain was given to the elite, or it could have gone to the market for people to make their own beer at home.” Recent discoveries include a child’s handprint, which suggested children may have worked at the malthouse, and a large piece of Ipswich Ware pottery which dates the site to between 700-850 AD.
Ms Blakelock added: “We are picking up evidence of a huge burning event - the first kiln probably collapsed and burnt down with the grain catching fire, so the second kiln may indicate another maltings to replace it.
“You would need lots of people to build this malthouse and there could have been between 50 to 100 people living in the village, so the children may have worked mixing the daub.”
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