Cirencester Roman dig is ‘history changing’

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Excavations in Cirencester have unearthed one of the earliest burial sites ever found in Roman Britain. 

Archaeologists have uncovered more than 40 burials at the site [Credit: BBC]

The dig at the former Bridges Garage on Tetbury Road has uncovered over 40 burials and four cremations. 

Experts say it is the largest archaeological find in the town since the 1970s. 

Neil Holbrook, chief executive at Cotswold Archaeology, said he could not “underestimate the potential significance” of the discovery. 

Archaeologists said they were particularly excited by the discovery of a child’s grave containing a pottery flagon, which could date to the early Roman period, between 70 AD and 120 AD. 

They said if the burial could be dated to this time, it could “challenge the current belief amongst archaeologists” that inhumation burials were not common practice until the later Roman period. 

“Whilst we are being cautious, we can’t underestimate the potential significance this discovery could have for archaeologists in Britain,” said Mr Holbrook. 

“Our specialists are working hard to provide further information to try to confirm the dating of this site.” 

‘Amazing so much has survived’ 

A dig on the same site, carried out in the 1960s before the construction of the garage, unearthed 46 cremations, six burials and part of an inscribed tombstone dating from the 1st to 3rd Century. 

Project manager for Cotswold Archaeology, Cliff Bateman, said: “It is amazing that so much archaeology has survived the comprehensive building works.” 

The former Bridges Garage site lies immediately outside the town, suggesting the burial site complied with Roman law that forbade burial within the town. 

Among items discovered were two bracelets made of green glass beads, jet beads, shale and copper alloy. 

Sonia Gravestock, of St James’s Place Wealth Management which owns the site, said: “We were excited to discover that such a significant Roman site was located under our feet.” 

The finds will now be conserved, and the skeletons examined at Cotswold Archaeology’s head office. 

It is hoped that some of the finds will be put on show to the public in Cirencester’s Corinium Museum. 

Source: BBC News Website [November 17, 2011]

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