Roman cemetery: Fifteen skeletons found at Ipplepen dig
A “major” Roman cemetery has been discovered during an archaeological dig in Devon.
Experts found 15 skeletons during the excavation of a Roman road at Ipplepen, near Exeter.
Tests on one of the skeletons showed the settlement was in use up to 350 years after the Roman period ended, which has surprised experts.
Archaeologists said the discoveries were both nationally and regionally important.
Danielle Wootton, from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, said: “As the excavation progressed, it became clear that we were dealing with one of the most significant Romano-British cemeteries discovered in Devon and that it had huge potential to develop our understanding of settlements and how people lived in the South West 2,000 years ago.” Read more.
“Almost 2,000 years ago somebody neatly packed cremated human bones into an old cooking pot, put the lid on, and set it by the banks of a smelly little urban river, the Walbrook in London. The discovery has deepened the mystery of scores of Roman skulls found nearby, polished till they gleam by tumbling among the pebbles of the riverbed.
It had been suggested that the skulls ended up in the river – which vanished into culverts centuries ago – by accident, eroded out of a Roman cemetery and washed downstream until they came to rest at bends in the bank. The new finds suggest a grimmer explanation. Jay Carver, Crossrail’s lead archaeologist on the site yards from the bustling commuters at Liverpool Street station, said the thrifty reuse of the old pot, and its deliberate placing by the river, will force archaeologists to look again at the skulls found in this excavation and generations of previous digs around the river.
“We now wonder again if the skulls were deliberately placed on the banks. Certainly no river ever carried off the cooking pot with its cremated bones which was unquestionably deliberately placed here. And the horse skull we found with one of the skulls didn’t come out of some equine graveyard, that was clearly also placed there,” he said.
The finds are now beginning to suggest gruesome ritual deposits of skulls, set along the river bank as offerings and boundary markers. Scientific tests are continuing on both the cremated remains and the skulls, and may confirm an early theory that most are the heads of young men who may have been executed criminals and rebels. Some could even be from the major rebellion Boudicca, queen of the Iceni tribe, led in the first century of Roman rule” (read more).