‘Roman’ skeletons unearthed among treasure haul during digs in west Suffolk

One of the burial sites in West Suffolk. One of the burial sites in West Suffolk.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
6:25 PM

Ancient skeletons that could date back to Roman Britain are among a haul of “exciting archaeological finds” uncovered in a series of digs in west Suffolk villages.

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Nine skeletons and four cremation pits are among the discoveries made by archaeologists at Bardwell, Barnham, Pakenham and Rougham, all near Bury St Edmunds.

Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and medieval items were also unearthed by archaeologists working for Anglian Water, which was carrying out surveys before installing a new £9m, 31km pipeline.

Experts said the five-month project had recovered enough artefacts to fill half a shipping container, and the discoveries would shed new light on their understanding of the period and the development of these small rural communities.

Jo Everitt, Anglian Water’s environment and heritage assessor, said: “We’ve made some exciting archaeological finds here, which are a fantastic reward for the careful planning that went into this project.

“The team has been excavating around 30 different locations along a vast pipeline route and the discoveries have been numerous, so the archaeologists have been extremely busy.

“Because the finds are so rich and varied in date, they will make a great display.”

Excavation on farmland near Barnham unearthed eight skeletons believed to be of the late or post-Roman era – AD300-500. Two were buried with a brooch and knife as grave goods.

A number of 6th century Anglo-Saxon “grub huts” were discovered nearby. These are believed to be cellars or under-floor spaces beneath Saxon buildings, although it is still not fully understood how they worked.

Evidence of a number of medieval houses dating to the 12th or 13th centuries were found at Bardwell and Rougham. Another skeleton and four cremation pits were discovered elsewhere.

Tom Phillips, from Oxford East Archaeology, which managed the excavation on behalf of Anglian Water, said: “We’ve been lucky here. We’ve got fantastic groups of Neolithic flintwork, six Saxon buildings to learn from, as we still don’t fully understand how these work, a potentially very interesting cemetery, and enough medieval archaeology around the villages to actually say something about their development.”

The artefacts will be sent to specialists to prepare an archaeological report. Afterwards, the finds will be kept in a secure museum archive for future research.

The company’s scheme will see water piped from Barnham Cross to Anglian Water’s reservoir in Little Welnetham, to secure future supplies for the area.

■ Do you have a story about heritage or history in your community? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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