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Community dig unearths skeleton at Heslington East

Posted on 21 October 2009

Archaeologists have discovered another skeleton during excavations on the site of the University of York’s campus expansion at Heslington East.

It was unearthed during a community dig involving staff and students from the University’s Department of Archaeology, as well as 31 volunteers including local residents, students from Archbishop Holgate's School, York and District Metal Detecting Club and members of the Greater York Community Archaeology Project.

The nature of the pottery within the grave fill leads us to believe that it is Roman in date

Cath Neal

In addition to the burial, the excavation area yielded further evidence for Roman land divisions and cobbled surfaces all in the area surrounding the Roman masonry building that the Department of Archaeology excavated at Heslington East last year.

The skeleton, which is thought to date from the Roman period, is being cleaned before it is sent for detailed analysis by an osteoarchaeologist to help to build up a picture of its origins.

It is the fourth set of human remains discovered by archaeologists at Heslington East. So far, the University’s own archaeological teams have discovered three skeletons, in an area containing material from the Roman period. Elsewhere on the site, a team from York Archaeological Trust unearthed an Iron Age skull which is thought to contain the oldest surviving brain material in Britain.

Cath Neal, Fieldwork Officer for the Heslington East archaeological project, said: “On first inspection it appeared to be an adult male skeleton and the nature of the pottery within the grave fill leads us to believe that it is Roman in date but it will be fully analysed and scientifically dated in due course."

David Burdsey, one of the volunteer archaeologists said: “I was thrilled to have had a role in the finding and excavation of the skeleton at Heslington. As an enthusiastic amateur archaeologist, to be entrusted with such an important role is a source of great pride. The team at Heslington were most welcoming and supportive and I look forward to working with them to make further discoveries on the site in the future.”

This burial was sampled in detail by Professor Don Brothwell, of the Department of Archaeology, and Professor Brendan Keeley, of the Department of Chemistry, as part of a European Research Council-funded funded project examining soil micromorphology and chemistry within the human burial environment.

Analysis of the material generated by the excavation will be undertaken at The King’s Manor in November by the archaeologists – both professional and amateur – who took part in the excavation.


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