пятница, 10 января 2020 г.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset


Ancient burials unearthed at the site of a new school in the town are shedding significant new light on life and death in Roman Somerset.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset
This older female was buried with a pillow supporting her head and a pottery vessel positioned alongside.
The small stone-built coffin-like box is known as a cist and is very unusual for Somerset.
The burial indicates high status [Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
Archaeologists working on the Somerset County Council-owned land have discovered around 50 burials dating from the Roman period (43-410 AD) on the plot for the new premises, which will replace the current King Ina junior and infants schools. The burials were of adults and children and included grave goods such as pottery and brooches.


The South West Heritage Trust has overseen the excavations, and archaeologist Steve Membery said: "This site is a significant discovery - the most comprehensive modern excavation of a Roman cemetery in Somerset.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset
Almost all of the burials found on the site adopted the Roman tradition of placing a pot alongside the head
 in the grave. These objects were placed as offerings [Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
"The application of technology including aerial drones and techniques such as isotope and ancient DNA analysis offers major opportunities for insights into the lives of the Roman population of Somerton."

The form of the burials is unusual locally and sheds lights on the transition between Iron Age and Roman society.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset
At the foot of this burial is a large cooking pot. During post excavation analysis
of the pot it was found to have a chicken wing in the bottom
[Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
"The individuals were evidently of some status in native society," added Mr Membery. "The burials also show early adoption of Roman burial practices, such as offerings, alongside traditionally Iron Age characteristics."


The graves were dug into the bedrock and lined with stone curbs to create a coffin structure. These were then sealed with flat lias slabs, while others have an uncommon tented roof.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset
Aerial view of the site clearly showing the presence of Iron Age roundhouses
[Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
Traces of Iron Age roundhouses, field systems and of a Roman building are also evident.

Work on the new 420-pupil, 14-class school had to be delayed while experts from Wessex Archaeology dug the site and unearthed the fascinating discoveries.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset
This reconstructed ceramic pot was placed in a grave as an offering
[Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
Now the field work has been completed, construction by BAM Construction is expected to start later this month.


Cllr Faye Purbrick, County Hall cabinet member for education and transformation, said: "The findings are both exciting and extraordinary, providing us with valuable insight into Somerset’s early history.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset
An unusual lead weight that was probably part of a survey instrument (similar to a sextant)
called a groma [Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
"We will be able to understand so much more about the lives of Roman people in Somerton thanks to these discoveries.

"Our team have a great track record of delivering fantastic new schools and while we’d always prefer any delay to be avoided, I think that the students, parents and teachers will understand in this instance, given the scale and importance of the archaeological finds here.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset
This coin of Emperor Vespasian 69-79 AD
[Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
"I am looking forward to seeing another new Somerset school reach the construction stage and would like to thank the school for its support throughout.


"The children have already had an opportunity to visit the site, hopefully inspiring some future archaeologists, and I’m sure they will be excited to continue to learn more about this very special site.

Undisturbed burials on school site shed light on Roman Somerset
A brooche [Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
"The site archaeology has been carefully gathered for further scientific analysis. A full report of the findings will be published in due course.

"It is hoped that the discoveries can be used to teach pupils about the history of the area, and that the archaeology of the roundhouses can be reflected in the site development."

Author: Phil Hill | Source: Somerset Country Gazette [January 07, 2020]



* This article was originally published here

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