THE biggest archaeological dig to have taken place in Horncastle has unearthed a haul of unexpected finds, including about 30 Roman graves.
The team of 10 archaeologists will leave this week but investigations will continue into the pottery, jewellery, coins, skeletons, soil and other materials they have taken from the site, on the town's playing fields.
"We knew from aerial pictures and a geophysical survey there was a Roman field system in the area but we have had some surprising finds," said Naomi Field, a partner in Lindsey Archaeological Services.
"We were not anticipating burials - that was a bonus."
She said previous human remains from the Roman period found in Horncastle had been from cremated bodies. The skeletons found in the latest excavations, however, were 'inhumations', or burials in earth, indicating a change in customs.
Some had been in coffins, some were found to be burials on top of earlier burials and one skeleton was found with a brooch, which was probably used to fasten a cloak in which the person was buried.
Supervising archaeologist Gavin Glover said the dig on the site - where Anglian Water will now lay new sewerage pipes - revealed different phases of activity by the Romans over the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries AD and by Bronze Age people centuries earlier.
"More work needs to be done off-site to discover the status of the people here," Mr Glover said. "We half expected to find grave goods, but there were none, unless they were perishable items that have long gone.
"We have found relatively fine wares, definitely not of local manufacture, and a range of other items but no buildings.
"Nothing as large as this has ever been excavated here before. The exciting thing now is to put together all that we have found to get a better picture of the people who used this area."
Barhale Construction will move onto the site next week to carry out the £500,000 sewerage scheme for Anglian Water, which will include the laying of twin pipes over a 180-metre length. The sports pitches which have been disturbed will be reinstated.