The remains of two Roman soldiers uncovered

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they have uncovered the remains of two Roman soldiers beneath one of Colchester’s former barracks. 

Archaeologist Adam Wightman with part of a shield found at the old barracks [Credit: Essex County Standard]

The remains of two spearmen, laid to rest on their backs with their weapons and armour, have been discovered in a cemetery beneath the former Hyderabad Barracks. 

The Colchester Archaeological Trust believes they could have been Saxon soldiers hired in the 4th or 5th century AD – the final days of the Roman empire. 

Trust director Philip Crummy said one strong theory is the spearmen were related to 4th century remains found buried in a similar style near the Roman chariot circus. 

Many men from the continent were hired by the Romans and posted at frontier towns and cities like Colchester to act as limitanei – lightly armed soldiers who were given land in return. 

Some then turned on their masters and paved the way for the conquest of much of eastern Britain by their own kind from across the North Sea. 

The recently-discovered bodies were buried with their shields on their chests and spears by their sides, while one had a dagger held in a belt around his waist. 

The wooden parts of the weapons have largely decayed, but the ironwork shield bosses, spear heads and dagger remain. 

The trust, which is carrying out the excavations for developer Taylor Wimpey, plans to carry out tests later this year to discover whether the soldiers lived at the end of the Roman era, or during the subsequent Anglo-Saxon period. 

The excavations at the Hyderabad and Meanee barracks mean there is little left of the former Roman Garrison area for archaeologists to explore, as it is being turned into a major housing development. 

While the highlight was the discovery of the starting gates of the Roman chariot circus in the gardens of the sergeants’ mess, Mr Crummy said plenty more of interest had been found. He said: “Taylor Wimpey deserves huge credit for the very significant archaeological successes of recent years on the Garrison site including, of course, the discovery of the Roman circus. 

“Nothing would have been achieved without the company’s continued support and funding.”  

Author: James Calnan | Essex County Standard [April 14, 2011]

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