I am always really interested when I hear that skeletons have been discovered in archaeological digs. They teach us so much about life long ago, and I try to imagine who they were and how they lived. Two skeletons were recently uncovered along with many archaeological features and artefacts during archaeological excavations between Burstwick and Rimswell in East Yorkshire. The excavations were carried out by the NAA prior to the installation of a new 9km water pipe by Yorkshire Water. The existing main water pipe was laid in 1977 and was in poor condition.
The remains of the skeletons which could be up to 3000 years old were the most impressive finds and were both found buried in a corner of what was likely a cemetery dating from the Iron Age. The deeper of the two graves contained the remains of a male who was buried with a sword, shield and spear. The sword had been deliberately bent which indicates a ceremonial event in which the weapon is ‘killed’. Both skeletons were also buried with ox-tails, thought to be offerings.
Evidence of several Iron Age roundhouses were also discovered along with a large scatter of tools, spoons and pottery. Much of the surrounding land has been heavily ploughed over the years, however, the remains of circular gullies were found together with beam slots for timber structures. Within the drip gullies were the remains of daub, the common material used at the time for cladding wooden framed walls. Some of the daub was burnt, which could mean that the houses burned down at some stage. In one of the roundhouses, the remains of a doorway could be seen.
A scatter of worked flint pieces was uncovered next to a silted-up river bed. The flint scatter contained tools, such as scrapers and awls used in the preparation of hides, and many other objects which usually date to the Neolithic and Mesolithic periods.
At the west end of the pipeline scheme, two large, square ditched enclosures were found. Within the ditches, crude clay spoon moulds used to cast spoons were identified, and the recovery of bronze slag from the same ditch suggested metal working once took place there. A large amount of pottery and animal bones also came from the ditches, showing domestic activity in the surrounding area, likely dating to the Iron Age or the early Roman period.
At the east end of the pipeline, ditched enclosures were discovered near to Rimswell water tower. One of the ditches contained complete pottery vessels containing burnt bone, which could be the remains of human or animal cremations. The pottery probably dates from the 4th or 5th century AD which tells us there was later Roman activity in the area.
These exciting finds along the 9km long dig sites shows human occupation of the area from the Neolithic (4000BC – 1800BC), Bronze Age (1800BC – 800BC), Iron Age (800BC – 42AD), Roman period (42AD -410AD) and Middle Ages. This unveils yet more of the history of Yorkshire which never ceases to fascinate!