Category Archives: ENGLAND

Research uncovers how Christianity changed Anglo-Saxon burial practices

Research uncovers how Christianity changed Anglo-Saxon burial practices

In a field three miles south of Cambridge, the bones of a mysterious Anglo-Saxon princess who died thirteen and a half centuries ago have been discovered. She died at the age of 16 and was buried with a small solid gold Christian cross encrusted with garnets on her chest, lying on a special high-status funerary bed.

Research uncovers how Christianity changed Anglo-Saxon burial practices
The skeleton and a Christian cross were found in Trumpington Meadows, Cambs a site that has been confirmed as one of the UK’s earliest Christian burial sites.

Her true identity has yet to be revealed. However, she was most likely a member of one of the period’s newly Christianized Anglo-Saxon royal families.

She was buried fully clothed, her bronze and iron chatelaine (belt hook) and purse, still attached to her leather belt.

A clue to the circumstances of her death is the presence of three other individuals buried in separate graves alongside her (two women aged around 20 and one other slightly older individuals of indeterminate sex, but conceivably female).

Skeleton of an Anglo-Saxon teenager who was buried with the Trumpington Cross.

It’s likely that they died at the same time – probably from some sort of epidemic. Significantly, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions that England was devastated by the plague in 664 AD (around the very time that the archaeological evidence also suggests they died).

The archaeological investigation – carried out by Cambridge University Archaeological Unit – has also revealed that they were interred adjacent to a high-status settlement consisting of a 12-meter long timber hall and at least half a dozen other buildings with substantial semi-subterranean storage cellars.

Among the finds unearthed were fragments of posh French-originating shiny black ceramic wine jugs – in England a type of pottery previously found mainly on monastic sites.

The female graves, the high-status nature of the site, and the Christian burial rite all combine to suggest that the princess and her companions may well have been nuns – and that the settlement may have been part of a nunnery.

It’s known that the various newly Christianized Anglo-Saxon monarchs of the time competed with each other to establish monasteries and nunneries as proof of their Christian piety. Indeed it’s conceivable that the princess’s parents enrolled their daughter in such a nunnery to further demonstrate their commitment to their new faith (a common practice at the time).

The area itself probably enjoyed some sort of royal or otherwise elevated status inherited from Roman and immediately post-Roman times when it formed part of a native Romano-British territory centered on Cambridge and known as the Granta Saete – the territory (saete) of the River Granta (now more often known as the Cam).

Just 500 meters to the north of the princess’s grave in the village of Grantchester (derived from the ‘Granta Saete’ territorial name) – the site of what was once a substantial Roman villa, the owners of which conceivably became the area’s ruling family.

Historians believe that the Roman villa, the high-status Anglo-Saxon settlement, and the princess’s grave were in one of several quasi-independent mini-kingdoms which acted as buffer states between the larger kingdoms of East Anglia and Mercia (central England).

The princess may well, therefore, have been the daughter of a mid-7th-century king of Mercia or East Anglia or of one of the buffer states in between.

Continuing scientific investigations over the next few months are expected to reveal more information about the princess, her companions, and the site as a whole. Isotopic tests are likely to reveal their geographical origins by demonstrating where they had spent their early childhoods.

Other isotopic analyses will reveal their diet. Efforts will also be made to reconstruct aspects of the princess’s clothing from fragments of mineralized textile which survived in her grave.

“This is an incredibly important and exciting discovery which is already shedding remarkable new light on the early years of English Christianity,” said Alison Dickens, a senior manager at the Cambridge University Archaeological Unit.

The excavation carried out near the village of Trumpington, south of Cambridge, and the ongoing scientific investigations, have been funded by the Trumpington Meadows Land Company – a joint housing development venture between London’s Grosvenor property company and USS, the UK-wide universities pension scheme.

Seahenge: A Subaquatic Monument of the European Bronze Age

Seahenge: A Subaquatic Monument of the European Bronze Age

Seahenge, which is also known as Holme I, was a prehistoric monument located in the village of Holme-next-the-Sea, near Old Hunstanton in the English county of Norfolk.

A timber circle with an upturned tree root in the center, Seahenge was apparently built in the 21st century BC, during the early Bronze Age in Britain. Contemporary theory is that it was used for ritual purposes.

The structure was perceived to be under threat from damage and erosion from the sea – as such it was fully excavated. This involved the removal of the timbers, a program of stratigraphic recording, and environmental sampling.

The structure comprised an elliptical circumference of fifty-five large oak posts and one smaller upright timber, set around an inverted oak tree.

Maximum diameter of 6.78m, with the tree, set slightly southwest of the center.

The central tree had two holes cut through the trunk on opposite sides, with a length of honeysuckle rope passed through the holes and tied in a knot.

A maximum of twenty-five trees was used to build the structure. Evidence of woodworking was recovered, including felling, trimming, splitting, and flattening.

422 pieces of wood debris were found, including woodchips. Toolmarks recorded from a total of fifty-nine possible tools; the maximum number of tools used is probably nearer 51.

The toolmarks are probably the largest assemblage of Early Bronze Age toolmarks yet recorded in Britain.

The structure was built at a single point in time. Dendrochronological dating of fifty-five samples revealed that the timber circle was constructed in the spring or early summer of 2049 BC, during the Early Bronze Age.

The environmental analysis demonstrated that the structure was built on a salt marsh. During the Bronze Age, freshwater reed swamp and alder carr spread over the saltmarsh and the monument itself.

Two timbers (context 35=37 and 65) may have been the first timbers set in place. These were placed on a southwest to northeast alignment, in the approximate direction of the midsummer rising sun and midwinter setting sun. This may have been deliberate or unintentional.

All but one of the circumference timbers were placed with their bark facing outwards. The timber with the split face facing outwards must have had significance.

The structure has been interpreted in various ways. These include a monument to mark the death of an individual, the death of a tree or the regenerative failure of trees, and the commemoration of an event, life, or the culmination of a celebration or festival.

The fragmentary remains of the timber circle are now in the King’s Lynn Museum.

Victoria Cave: The underground Dales cavern that changed history

Victoria Cave: The underground Dales cavern that changed history

Victorian excavators were particularly fascinated by ‘bone caves’ where there might be a possibility of finding evidence for the earliest humans along with long-extinct animals.

The cavern near Settle is home to the skeletons of mammoths and Roman remains. Described as an ‘archaeologist’s dream’, Victoria Cave is made of limestone and can be found east of Langcliffe, in Ribblesdale.

It was discovered by chance in 1837 – the year Queen Victoria was crowned – and since then has yielded a number of incredible finds. It’s been completely excavated and has provided vital information about climate change over thousands of years.

Victoria Cave, the most famous of the ancient truncated caves that lie along Langcliffe Scar above Settle, although it was unknown until 1837 and discovered purely by chance. Stephen Oldfield

An amazing discovery

A group of men from Settle was out walking their dogs in 1837 when one of them disappeared inside a foxhole. Its owner, Michael Horner, followed and found himself in a passage that led to a cave with Roman objects clearly visible on the ground.

The original entrance discovered by Michael Horner: an ancient passage that once continued towards the camera and beyond. Stephen Oldfield
The artificial entrance leading to the excavated main chamber. Stephen Oldfield

He returned with his employer, Joseph Jackson, and the pair discovered a deeper chamber sealed from daylight. 20-year-old plumber Joseph had no knowledge of archaeology but began a large-scale candlelit excavation of the cave.

In 1840, he contacted Roman expert Charles Roach Smith, who visited the site just before Joseph dug up a hyena’s jawbone. A Victorian fascination with ‘bone caves’ soon developed, and the hunt for evidence of early man and the animals they had eaten began.

The excavated Main Chamber of Victoria Cave – once completely blocked by glacial sediment and containing the remains of animals over 120,000 years old. A passage known as Birkbeck’s Gallery can be seen leading off at the back. Stephen Oldfield

Charles Darwin himself even took an interest in Victoria Cave, and he became involved in another dig in 1870 that was linked to his emerging theories about human evolution. By this time, Joseph Jackson had become a full-time, eminent archaeologist.

Victoria Cave looked set to become a crucial archaeological and geological site – but two of the scientists involved later fell out over its contents.

The repercussions from the dispute, which centered around their conflicting views on cyclical climate change, led to Victoria Cave falling out of favor with the scientific community and it was gradually forgotten.

In the 1930s, the cave was re-discovered when a local greengrocer set up a society for cave explorers in his father’s pig yard. Tot Lord and his group collected as many of the artifacts as possible from the earlier digs and uncovered further remains.

His family has taken possession of the collection and archive material, and Victoria Cave returned to international prominence, with its importance highly valued. It offers the first proof that the Ice Age was cyclical and the final record of wild lynx living in Britain.

A prehistoric cache

Ancient bones found inside the cave, which is managed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, include those of mammoths, hippos, rhino, elephants, and spotted hyenas who lived in the Dales over 130,000 years ago – when the climate was warm enough to support species that are nowadays more commonly found in Africa.

After the last Ice Age, evidence that a brown bear had hibernated in the cave was uncovered, and reindeer bones were found. One of the key discoveries was a key indicator of the first human life in the Dales – an 11,000-year-old antler harpoon point used for hunting the deer.

Scene outside Victoria Cave 130,000 years ago.
This barbed harpoon point is made from deer antler and was found during the 19th-century excavations of Victoria Cave. The tip is broken. It dates to around 11,000 years ago and it probably arrived in the cave embedded in a scavenged or dying animal that had been hunted by the first known inhabitants of the Yorkshire Dales. An antler rod and ‘lance point’ were also found.

Roman remains

The area seems to have later been inhabited by the Romans – artifacts such as brooches, coins, and pottery from the period were buried in the cave, some of them imported from France and Africa.

Experts believe the cave could have been a religious shrine, with a workshop outside. Some of the items have been put on display at the Craven Museum in Skipton.

Access to the cave is limited as the roof is dangerously unstable, but walkers can visit the entrance.

Traces of Medieval Jewish Diet Uncovered in England

Traces of Medieval Jewish Diet Uncovered in England

According to a statement released by the University of Bristol, analysis of food remains recovered from the medieval Jewish quarter in historic Oxford suggests that the community followed dietary laws known as Kashruth

Keeping kosher is one of the oldest known diets across the world and, for an observant Jew, maintaining these dietary laws (known as Kashruth) is a fundamental part of everyday life. It is a key part of what identifies them as Jews, both amongst their own communities and to the outside world.

Oxford’s Jewish quarter was established around St. Aldates in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, following William the Conqueror’s invitation to Jews in Northern France to settle in England.

Recent excavations by Oxford Archaeology at St Aldates, in the historic heart of Oxford, revealed evidence for two houses, which a medieval census suggested belonged to two Jewish families.

One was owned by Jacob f. mag. Moses and called Jacob’s Hall, and was said to be one of the most substantial private houses in Oxford and the other house was owned by an Elekin f. Bassina.

During excavations, archaeologists found a stone-built structure, identified as a latrine, and dated to the late 11th and 12th century.

View of excavations at St Aldates, Oxford, showing Carfax Tower in the background

A remarkable animal bone assemblage was unearthed in this latrine, dominated by domestic fowl (mainly goose), and with a complete absence of pig bones, hinting at a kosher diet.

Fishbones comprised only species such as herring which are kosher. This combination of species suggests a Jewish dietary signature, identified in British zooarchaeology for the first time, and just the third time in medieval Europe.

To investigate whether the inhabitants of the two houses were eating a Jewish diet, the team used a combined chemical and isotopic approach to identify and quantify the food residues absorbed into medieval vessels found at the site.

a. jar in Medieval Oxford Ware, probably used as a cooking-pot and dated to the late 11th or 12th century and b. near-complete miniature jar in Early Brill Coarseware from structure 3.1

Their findings, published recently in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, showed that the possible Jewish vessels were only used to cook meats from cattle, sheep and goat.

Evidence for pig processing was entirely absent. However, the cooking and eating of pork were evident from the pottery residues and animal bones from a contemporaneous site outside of the Jewish Quarter in Oxford (The Queen’s College), and from the earlier Anglo-Saxon phase at St Aldates.

Lead author, Dr Julie Dunne from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, said: “This is a remarkable example of how biomolecular information extracted from medieval pottery and combined with ancient documents and animal bones, has provided a unique insight into 800-year-old Jewish dietary practices.”

This is the first study of its kind that has been able to identify the practice of keeping kosher, with its associated ritual food practices and taboos, using ancient food residues found in cooking pots, opening the way for similar studies in future.  

Edward Biddulph, who managed the post-excavation project at Oxford Archaeology, said: “The results of the excavation at St Aldates and Queen Street have been astonishing, not only revealing rare archaeological evidence of a medieval Jewry in Britain but also demonstrating the enormous value of a carefully focused analysis that combines traditional finds and stratigraphic analysis with scientific techniques.”

Dr Lucy Cramp who is a senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at Bristol, and is a co-author of the study, added: “Human dietary choices are based on far more than availability or caloric content.

What’s really exciting is how this evidence for dietary patterns in Medieval Oxford informs us about the diversity of cultural practices and beliefs that were present in the past, as today.”

Professor Richard Evershed FRS who heads up Bristol’s Organic Geochemistry Unit and is a co-author of the study, added: “This is another remarkable example of just how far we are able to go with using archaeological science to define many aspects of the lives of our ancestors.”

Medieval ring with a skull emblem found in Wales declared treasure

Medieval ring with a skull emblem found in Wales declared treasure

Medieval ring with a skull emblem found in Wales declared treasure
Images of six of the medieval treasures found in Wales by metal detectorists in recent years.

A ‘Memento Mori‘ gold ring engraved with a skull is one of nine stunning medieval and post-medieval objects found in Wales. The ring, found in Carreghofa Community, Powys, would have been kept as a reminder of the inevitability of death. 

‘Memento Mori’ is a Latin term that literally means ‘remember you must die. Among the other priceless objects are three gold and silver coin hoards and the first ‘Anglo-Saxon style’ double-hooked fastener to be identified in Wales. 

All the nine finds were discovered by metal detectorists in Powys and Vale of Glamorgan and have been declared treasure by National Museum Wales. 

Pictured, ‘Treasure case 19.11’ – a post-medieval Memento Mori gold finger ring found in Carreghofa Community, Powys

They were all personal items owned by wealthy members of Welsh society from the 9th to the 17th centuries AD. The gold Memento Mori ring, dubbed ‘Treasure case 19.11’ was found in Carreghofa Community by metal detectorist David Balfour. 

Its flat bezel is engraved with what National Museum Wales calls ‘death’s head’ – a skull – inlaid with traces of white enamel. The skull is surrounded by the inscription ‘+ Memento Mori’ in a small neat italic script arranged in a circle.  The inscription, the style of the engraved skull and the neat italic lettering indicates that this ring dates between 1550 and 1650, according to National Museum Wales. 

The government body said in a blog post that it hopes to acquire this artefact for the Welsh national collection. 

‘This is a rare example of a Tudor or early Stuart memento mori ring with a clear Welsh provenance,’ said Dr Mark Redknap, deputy head of collections and research at National Museum Wales.

‘Its sentiment reflects the high mortality of the period, the motif and inscription acknowledging the brevity and vanities of life. 

‘This discovery increases our knowledge of attitudes to death in early modern Wales.’

Among the other findings, all listed by National Museum Wales this week, are a medieval silver annular brooch, a Tudor silver coin hoard and a medieval silver bar-mount. 

Three medieval gold coins (Treasure 19.44) were found by Chris Perkins and Shawn Hendry while metal detecting in Llanwrtyd Community, Powys in April 2019. 

The coins are ‘nobles’ from the reigns of Edward III and Richard II (1327-1399), with a total value of 20 shillings, which was about 50 days’ wages for a skilled tradesman. 

They were probably buried for safekeeping around the end of the 14th century but were never recovered by their owner. The newly opened Y Gaer Museum, Art Gallery & Library, in the town of Brecon in mid-Wales, hopes to acquire the gold coins for its new galleries. 

Late medieval silver-gilt finger ring found in the Tregynon area, Powys, Wales.

‘Very few gold coins have been discovered within south Powys, so we would welcome the possibility of adding these to Museums new medieval displays,’ said Senior Curator Nigel Blackamore. 

A group of five silver coins (Treasure 19.22), comprising 4 groats and a Burgundian ‘double patard’, was discovered by Aled Roberts and Graham Wood in May 2019, while metal detecting in Churchstoke Community, Powys. This small hoard was buried in about 1530 during the reign of Henry VIII, whose portrait features on three of the coins.

17th century gold coins found by metal detectorists in the Trefeglwys Community, Powys, Wales.

Y Lanfa Powysland Museum and Welshpool Library hopes to acquire this coin hoard to contribute to the museum’s collection, which does not yet include examples of locally found 16th century coins. 

‘It would be wonderful to have these coins within the museum’s collection and to put them on display for the public to enjoy,’ said Centre Manager, Saffron Price. 

Meanwhile, the early medieval decorated silver double hooked fastener (Treasure case 19.23) was found by Stuart Fletcher in Churchstoke Community, Powys on an undisclosed date. 

National Museum Wales says: ‘The stylisation of the debased zoomorphic motifs show that this is Anglo-Saxon work belonging to the ninth century, and it was probably used to fasten an upper garment, as functional costume jewellery.’ 

Treasure case 19.23, an early medieval silver double-hooked fastener found in Churchstoke Community, Powys

It hopes to acquire this artefact too for the national collection. This unusual object is the first Anglo-Saxon style double-hooked fastener to be identified in Wales,’ said Dr Redknap.

‘Reflecting the status of the original owner, it provides new evidence for the exposure of Anglo-Saxon styles within the early Welsh kingdoms, and of the melting-pot of styles and influences from which Welsh identity was to emerge.

Rabbits Uncover 9,000-Year-old Artifacts on a Welsh island

Rabbits Uncover 9,000-Year-old Artifacts on a Welsh island

A group of rabbits inadvertently uncovered a hoard of 9,000-year-old Stone and Bronze Age artefacts hidden on the small Welsh island of Skokholm this month, in a first-of-its-kind discovery.

Skokholm Island typically allows a select number of visitors to spend the night, but COVID-19 lockdowns have reduced its population to only two wardens — and a bunch of rabbits.

Skokholm Island sits in the Celtic Sea to the west of mainland Wales and is two miles off the Pembrokeshire coast. It is currently only inhabited by two wardens, seabird experts Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, who made the startling discoveries.

According to The Guardian, Brown and Eagle were making their usual patrol of the area when they discovered an artefact at the entrance of a rabbit burrow right by the island’s cottage.

Rabbits Uncover 9,000-Year-old Artifacts on a Welsh island
The discoveries were made at the same rabbit burrow which was apparently dug into an ancient hunter-gatherer site.

The wardens sent pictures of the piece to experts on the mainland, who identified it as a Mesolithic tool.

The tool was what researchers call a “beveled pebble,” and has since been estimated to be around 6,000 to 9,000 years old. Experts believe it was used by Stone Age hunter-gatherers to craft boats out of seal hides as well as to prepare foods like shellfish.

According to Andrew David, an expert who examined the prehistoric tool virtually, similar items have been found at coastal sites nearby, including Pembrokeshire and Cornwall, but this is a historic first for Skokholm Island.

However, the discoveries didn’t stop there.

This particular tool is believed to have been used to prepare shellfish and bolster ancient watercraft with animal skin.

Indeed, just a day later, Brown and Eagle spotted the second round of items at the entrance to the same rabbit burrow which included yet another Mesolithic-era stone tool and sizable pieces of pottery.

The wardens sent photos of these to the curator of prehistoric archaeology at the National Museum of Wales, Jody Deacon. She identified the pottery pieces as relics from a 3,750-year-old burial urn from the Early Bronze Age.

One particularly large fragment was found to have come from a rather thick pot. It was decorated with lined incisions, leading Deacon to conclude that it was likely used for cremation rituals.

For Toby Driver, an archaeologist at the Royal Commission of Wales, the discoveries ultimately suggest that the island’s cottage was built atop an ancient burial site which itself was built on top of an even older site.

“Skokholm is producing some amazing prehistoric finds,” he said. “It seems we may have an early Bronze Age burial mound built over a middle Stone Age hunter-gatherer site. It’s a sheltered spot, where the island’s cottage now stands and has clearly been settled for millennia.”

Experts believe this pottery fragment belonged to a funerary urn, an artefact never before found on Skokholm Island.

Finding prehistoric burial earns in Wales isn’t all that unusual. Discovering them on Skokholm, meanwhile — or on any of the western Pembrokeshire islands — is unprecedented.

Brown and Eagle, who moved to Skokholm Island in 2013, are helping to uncover more about the island’s ancient past.

While it’s barely a mile long and half a mile across, Skokholm Island has a fascinating history. The name itself is Norse, given by the Vikings who settled there in the late 10th or early 11th century. Then, Skokholm became a rabbit farm around the 15th century.

In 2006, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales purchased the isle in order to conserve it as a national nature reserve. While it’s typically open for a restricted number of visitors to spend the night, the coronavirus pandemic has left Brown and Eagle on their lonesome and documenting their observations on a blog.

These miraculous discoveries might lend some credence to the age-old superstition that rabbit’s feet bring luck.

Experts are eager to find out for themselves, with a fresh, exhaustive survey of Skokholm Island later this year. However, they will have to wait until pandemic lockdowns are lifted.

6-yr old Indian-origin boy finds millions of years old fossil in UK garden

6-yr old Indian-origin boy finds millions of years old fossil in UK garden

A six-year-old boy has found a fossil up to 488 million years old while digging in his garden with a fossil-hunting set he received for Christmas.

Siddak Singh Jhamat was “digging for worms” when he made the discovery

Siddak Singh Jhamat, known as Sid, had been digging in his garden in Walsall, in the West Midlands, “for worms and things like pottery and bricks”, he said.

“I just came across this rock which looked a bit like a horn, and thought it could be a tooth or a claw or a horn, but it was actually a piece of coral which is called horn coral. I was really excited about what it really was.”

His father Vish Singh said: “We were surprised he found something so odd-shaped in the soil.

“He found a horn coral, and some smaller pieces next to it, then the next day he went digging again and found a congealed block of sand.

6-yr old Indian-origin boy finds millions of years old fossil in UK garden
The family were able to identify the fossil’s era on a Facebook group

“In that there were loads of little molluscs and seashells, and something called a crinoid, which is like a tentacle of a squid, so it’s quite a prehistoric thing,” Mr Singh added.

Fortunately for the pair, Mr Singh was able to identify the findings courtesy of a fossil group on Facebook which he was a member of.

The group identified the find as most like a Rugosa coral, estimated to be between 251-488 million years old.

Vish Singh estimates the fossil is between 251 to 488 million years old

“The period that they existed from was between 500 million and 251 million years ago, the Paleozoic era,” Mr Singh explained.

“England at the time was part of Pangea, a landmass of continents. England was all underwater as well.”

Unlike the south of England’s Jurassic Coast, the family said the area they live in isn’t well known for its fossils – although they have a lot of natural clay in the garden where Sid’s findings were unearthed.

The family added that they hoped to tell Birmingham University’s Museum of Geology about their discovery.

Mr Singh said: “Lots and lots of people have commented on how amazing it is to find something in the back garden.

“They say you can find fossils anywhere if you look carefully enough, but to find a significantly large piece like that is quite unique,” he added.

Possible 2,000-Year-Old Port Found in Northern England

Possible 2,000-Year-Old Port Found in Northern England

BBC News reports that Roman artefacts, including stone anchors fashioned with a single hole, coins, nails, sharpening tools, and a brooch, have been recovered from a possible port site in the River Wear in northeastern England.

One theory still to be examined is that it may have been home to a small port. Underwater archaeologist Gary Bankhead said he could not “over-emphasize” the importance of the discovery.

Although a dam is known to have existed in the area since Victorian times if theories are confirmed it would be only the second such port ever discovered in Britain.

Possible 2,000-Year-Old Port Found in Northern England
The five stone anchors found in the river suggest the vessels could have been part of a trading network

“It’s the first occasion in the UK where the anchors have been found in a river, normally they are found in a maritime environment offshore,” said Mr Bankhead, an honorary research associate at Durham University.

“The closest parallels we have are six that were found off Dunbar but they all had two holes in. The ones we found at Hylton had a single hole and that’s really useful dating evidence.

“We looked for parallels and one particular anchor found in Lulworth Cove in Dorset was found alongside some Mediterranean pottery dated from 100BC to 100 AD, that’s really useful evidence.

“That corresponds nicely with Romans in Northern Britain, where they were trying to suppress the Brigantes at the time and build the forts.”

Further up the River Wear were Roman forts at Chester-le-Street and Binchester. Four of the anchors found are made from local stone but one is a different material and believed to have come from south of Whitby, North Yorkshire.

“That suggests trade networks, a seagoing vessel, coming up the North East coast, coming in the mouth of the Wear, sailing up as far as it could and having to anchor up at low tide because it couldn’t go any further up.

“Potentially, what we think we have found is some sort of dam, bridge, wharf, or landing stage where these vessels are unloading cargo into smaller river-sized vessels to resupply the forts further upstream.

“Clearly this is an important multi-period site, we have nearly 2,000 years worth of occupation at that site, but we need to know what that is to get it done correctly.”

A circular Roman mount was found at the site
Other items found items found included a model boat

A community group has played a vital role in the discovery, carrying out fieldwork, with some spending 40 years trying to uncover its secrets. It also found coins, nails, a stone map, sharpening tools and a brooch.

“For 40 years I have been digging in the wrong place, that was the trouble,” laughed retired carpenter Ian Stewart.

“We moved to the site and the artefacts kept coming, it was amazing. You have got no idea how thrilled I was, especially when I started to find the timbers in the river bed that the dam was put on and all the stones that matched the stones at Roker Beach.

“Everything started to fit together, it was like doing a puzzle that’s 80 per cent underwater and scattered all over the North East, no wonder it took 40 years.”

The artefacts have been removed for further examination.