A team working near the site of the Roman town at Caistor St Edmund has made a gruesome first find: human remains.

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A headless skeleton thought to date to Anglo Saxon times was uncovered by archaeologists during the first days of a three-week dig outside the walls of Venta Icenorum.

Experts believe the head of the body, which may have been of a woman, could have been removed during ploughing of the field because of the shallowness of the grave.

The team had to wait for clearance from the Ministry of Justice to remove the bones yesterday, and they will be analysed before being reburied.

Dr Will Bowden, who is leading the project, said: “We think the skeleton is late Roman or Anglo-Saxon, and probably of a fairly small adult, possibly female.

“The bones are so fragmented it’s really very difficult to tell, but it’s looking like an isolated burial.

“We will study them as much as we can, and see what information we can.”

Dr Bowden said the dig, which is being carried out in association with the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, had also revealed “tantalising” clues to Caistor’s occupation in the post-Roman period, including parts of timber structures hinting at agricultural or domestic settlement.

Discovering definite signs of an Anglo Saxon settlement would be “really important”, he added.

“I wouldn’t put bet my house on it, but it’s looking pretty promising,” he said.

“None of the other greenfield towns in England have this late occupation. It will be a unique thing to have a confirmed Saxon presence at one of them.

“If we have definitely isolated it, it really adds to our knowledge of Roman Britain as a whole.”

The dig is holding a family fun day today and tomorrow, with activities including guided tours, children’s excavations and dressing up fun. The site is open from 9.30am until 5pm.

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