Human remains, artefacts hint at ancient Romano-British settlement

Human remains found on the A453 of bodies dating up to three hundred years apart are thought by archaeologists to have been related.

Human remains, artefacts hint at ancient Romano-British settlement
The archaeologists at work one hectare site believed to be a late Iron Age/Early Roman settlement [Credit: This is Nottingham]
Evidence of two bodies was uncovered this week during an archaeological excavation as part of preparatory work for the new dual carriageway.

The one hectare site, set back from the existing road near Clifton, is thought to be a late Iron Age/Early Roman settlement. It is said to have been a farmstead which lasted more than 2,000 years and was home to several generations of ordinary Romano-British people.

A ten-strong team of Archaeologists, working eight hour days for the last five weeks, this week found a skull, with the teeth still embedded, and upper arm of one body and the part of a leg of another.

One of the bodies was found in a crouched position and the gender is not yet known, although the brow ridge was heavy, indicating it might have been a man. The other was discovered in a horizontal position, indicating a later burial of up to three hundred years, and thought to be female. Both have been removed from site under licence and are now being examined more closely by specialists.

Archaeologist and team leader Andy Norton said: “The find builds up our picture of the Roman landscape of Nottinghamshire. Not far away at Redhill there was a Roman villa and a temple and within the grounds there would have been various farmsteads and it looks like this was one of them.

“Living here would have been a relatively normal family group, husband and wife with the next generation of offspring living here over several hundred years and the two bodies we found would no doubt have been related over the years.”

On the site there is also remains of a Roman wall and evidence of what might have been a two storey property, probably up to 10 metres by 15 metres - two storey due to its deep foundations. Bits of pottery including Roman Greyware, Oxford Ware and Saimain - a high quality Roman ceramic - with a lion etched on the side, indicates the reasonably high social status of the family.

Human remains, artefacts hint at ancient Romano-British settlement
Ancient human remains unearthed [Credit: ITV Central]
A jet bracelet was also found at the site, together with animal remains. Assistant Archaeologist Dane Wright found one of the bodies, thought to be female, in a crouched position.

He said: “The crouched position is indicative of a pre-historic burial and could be early Roman. Some people say the position of the body was because they are placed again in the foetal position, so they are returning to how they once were.

"Some say it was because it was thought they would just be going to sleep so it was a comfort thing. I can’t really describe how I felt finding the body but it is strange to discover a person who actually lived up to 2,500 years ago and how we have developed as a civilisation.”

The dig, which ends mid next week, is being carried out alongside other advance work for the widening scheme.

Highways Agency Senior Project Manager Iftikhar Mir said the find would not delay the two and a half year project and it was still due for completion in July 2015.

He added: “The find is interesting but the archaeological work was part of our advanced work and the fact that we have found what we have does not delay the work in any way. While widening the existing A453 is all about planning for the future, it’s important that we also consider the past which is why archaeological work is an integral part of what we do at the Highways Agency. It is important that the area’s history is recorded and preserved to help form future generations.”

Once investigations are complete the bones will be donated to a local museum or reburied.

The A453 improvement will widen a seven mile stretch of the busy A453 between junction 24 of the M1 and the A52 Nottingham Ring Road. The Highways Agency says “road users will benefit from reduced congestion, faster, more reliable journeys and improved safety on the route.”

Source: This is Nottingham [October 05, 2012]

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