A ROMAN cemetery containing items of national importance has been uncovered in Herefordshire.
One of the biggest historical finds in the Marches has been made at Stretton Grandison. A complete wooden coffin – only the third to be found in the UK – was one of the items uncovered by Leominster-based Border Archaeology (BA).
A kiln, various urns and a working brooch were also unearthed, along with the remains of up to 19 bodies.
The results of the four-month dig – kept secret until now for fear of theft – were revealed to a packed Ashperton Village Hall on Tuesday.
Neil Shurety, BA managing director, was thrilled at the discovery, but believes the site is hiding more.
“We found a hell of a lot and it’s probably the largest find of its kind in Herefordshire,” said Mr Shurety.
“We had indications it was a Roman site, but we had no idea it was going to be this big. The major find was the coffin – this is only the third complete Roman coffin ever found in the UK, and the others were found in London in the Thames.” The dig coincided with major pipeline work, being carried out by Welsh Water and Laing O’Rourke between Lyde and Ledbury. The cemetery was discovered east of Watery Lane, one of 13 sites earmarked for investigation either side of the A417.
The coffin and the body – nicknamed Lucius – is being preserved, following tests at Durham University.
According to archaeologists, Lucius was 46, 5ft 9ins tall, suffered toothache and died around 1,800 years ago.
Most bodies were from the second to the fourth centuries AD, but some dated to the Middle Ages.
One find, dating to 650AD, was much more grisly – a decapitated 15-year-old girl who suffered multiple sharp blows.
Neolithic stakes, used for fishing, were also discovered, suggesting much earlier occupation.
“To have found these stakes I think, personally, was one of the highlights of our dig,” said Mr Shurety.
“These are made of alder and they date to 3,500 BC – it’s so humbling to think that man has been working on this land for all this time.” The coffin, Lucius, and recovered items will go on display in Hereford next year, while the other bodies will be given a proper burial. A book is also being planned, while BA intends to meet villagers to discuss their finds.