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Archaeologists discover late-Roman cemetery at site of derelict pub

By This is Lincolnshire  |  Posted: July 10, 2010

One of the 46 human skeletons found at the site so far.

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS have found what is thought to be a late-Roman cemetery in a county village.

So far, a total of 46 human remains have been excavated and archaeologists say they expect to have found more than 50 by the time they finish next week.

The discovery was made during a five-week dig taking place as part of the development of a derelict pub in Caistor, near Market Rasen.

Specialists from Pre Construct Archaeological Services Ltd, say the cemetery is the first of its kind to be discovered in the area, branding the find as "significant".

Director of the firm Colin Palmer-Brown said: "The graves are orientated from east to west, with the heads to the west which fits well with Christian tradition. There is an absence of grave goods, such as brooches or accessories, which is also consistent with Christian burials.

"Burial traditions change over time and the fact that these appear to be Christian suggests this cemetery dates back to the late Roman period, around the fourth century AD after the Emperor Constantine I legalised Christian worship in AD313.

"This find is very significant as little was known about Caistor. It isn't near any known Roman road. One theory is that Caistor could have been part of the east coast defences in the late-Roman period and it was a supply base for a garrison."

Shards of pottery found alongside the graves – although not left as memorial items – strengthen the case for it being a late-Roman cemetery, said Mr Palmer-Brown.

Teams from Pre Construct initially found six sets of human remains during the pre-planning process. That find then led to the discovery of men, women, teenagers, children and babies.

Archaeological site manager Fiona Walker said there is evidence that some of the bodies were in coffins. "We can see nails and even the remains of straps in some areas," she said.

The former pub is being turned into a Lincolnshire Co-operative food store with a £1.3 million development. Contractors Taylor Pearson started on site in May and the store is set to open in November.

Special permission from the Ministry of Justice will allow the human remains to be exhumed, before being privately reburied.

They will then be cleaned and examined by Pre-Construct's in-house osteologist, who will determine sex, approximate age and even whether they had suffered from any illness or injury.

Staff from Lincolnshire Co-operative say they may create some kind of display to remember the history of the site.

Store development manager Matthew Wilkinson said: "It has been fascinating to find out more about the history of the site."

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