Category Archives: ENGLAND

3,500-Year-Old Spearhead Found in England

3,500-Year-Old Spearhead Found in England

A rare Bronze Age spearhead has been found by workers while developing a wetland in Gloucestershire. Experts discovered it at Cirencester Sewage Works, near South Cerney, earlier this year and on 10 May estimated it is about 3,500 years old.

3,500-Year-Old Spearhead Found in England
The spearhead was found alongside other small items and fragments of pottery

Archaeologists said it appeared to be a family heirloom that was placed into a pit for a reason unknown.

Other items unearthed include a selection of prehistoric pottery fragments and flint tools.

Archaeologists will analyse the discoveries before handing them to a museum

The spearhead was found on 22 March at the site owned by Thames Water, which is being turned into a wetlands area to improve biodiversity.

Cotswold Archaeology project manager Alex Thomson said: “Items like this are quite rare and during the Bronze Age they would have been equally as rare and quite special.

“It’s always exciting as you never know what you’re going to find, it could be absolutely nothing or, as in this instance, you could find more than you bargained for.”

Mr Thomson said he thought the spearhead was likely associated with a “wider settlement” found nearby during excavations undertaken in the late 1990s.

Workers have been on-site to turn the area into a wetland

Thames Water archaeologist Victoria Reeve added: “We knew we were likely to come across something interesting while carrying out the work, which is why we had Cotswold Archaeology on site ready to record any archaeology that was present, but we were blown away by what we actually discovered.

“It was one of the first things that came out and normally if we had started excavating, we might have expected something to turn up more mid-way through.

“There’s been a lot of work in this wider area, so if you bring all of those sources together, then you can start to plot where you think people might have been in the past.”

The items will be taken back to a laboratory for analysis and then handed to the Corinium Museum in Cirencester.

Stonehenge: Archaeologists unearth 10,000-year-old hunting pits

Stonehenge: Archaeologists unearth 10,000-year-old hunting pits

Thousands of pits believed to have been used by prehistoric hunters have been unearthed near Stonehenge. The find, by University of Birmingham and Ghent University researchers, included sites over 10,000 years old.

Stonehenge: Archaeologists unearth 10,000-year-old hunting pits
Researchers say the largest pit is the most ancient trace of how land was used at Stonehenge

One of the pits, which was 13ft (4m) wide and 6.5ft (2m) deep, was the largest of its kind in northwest Europe, the archaeologists said.

The discoveries were made using a combination of novel geophysics and “traditional” archaeology, they added.

The researchers said the pits, dating from between around 8,200 BCE and 7800 BCE, showed hunter-gatherers had roamed the landscape during the early Mesolithic period when Britain was re-inhabited after the last Ice Age.

The discovery was partly made with a technique known as electromagnetic induction survey, which uses the electrical conductivity of soil to provide information that can be used to find materials underground.

It was the first extensive electromagnetic induction survey undertaken in the Stonehenge landscape, according to the University of Birmingham.

The hunting pits were discovered by the archaeologists near the site of Stonehenge

Paul Garwood, senior lecturer in prehistory at the University of Birmingham, said what had been discovered was “not a snapshot of one moment in time”.

“The traces we see in our data span millennia, as indicated by the 7,000-year timeframe between the oldest and most recent prehistoric pits we’ve excavated.

“From early hunter-gatherers to later Bronze Age inhabitants of farms and field systems, the archaeology we’re detecting is the result of the complex and ever-changing occupation of the landscape.”

Dr Nick Snashall, the archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, said the team had revealed some of the earliest evidence of human activity yet unearthed in the Stonehenge landscape.

“The discovery of the largest known Early Mesolithic pit in northwest Europe shows this was a special place for hunter-gatherer communities thousands of years before the first stones were erected,” Dr Snashall said.

Philippe De Smedt, associate professor at Ghent University, said the combination of new techniques and traditional archaeology had revealed otherwise “elusive” archaeological evidence around Stonehenge.

Traces of Hyde Abbey Found in England

Traces of Hyde Abbey Found in England

Remains of the core of a medieval wall have been found just 80cm below the garden of a house near Winchester in a major archaeological discovery this week. The excavation at Hyde Abbey, the burial place of Alfred the Great, also discovered a huge foundation, for what believed to be the north wall of a church.

Most stonework from the abbey has been robbed over time for reuse. Hence the archaeological team was delighted that the trench revealed some intact stonework to the north and floor surfaces to the south. This is the first discovery of the church nave of Hyde’s medieval abbey, according to the archaeologists.

Dig organiser David Spurling said the nave of the huge church under the gardens of Hyde had never been found before despite being the burial place of Alfred the Great. Over 80 metres long, it has remained hidden beneath the houses, gardens and roads in Hyde.

The latest dig, known as Hyde900, has now located the north wall for the first time, only some 80cm below the garden of 6 King Alfred Place.

Householders, Paul and Kat McCulloch had already had their garden dug during the 2020 Hyde900 Community Dig, but no remains of the abbey were found apart from demolition materials left over after the destruction of the abbey.

However, that dig, and the subsequent dig in 2020 at four other gardens in the vicinity, indicated that the trench in number 6 King Alfred Place missed the north wall of the nave by only two or three metres.

Mr Spurling said: “When we put together the new information from previous digs and had the results from the University of Winchester’s ground-penetrating radar survey done by David Ashby, we talked it over with Paul and Kat who jumped at the offer that we could once again dig the garden again – but to avoid Kat’s peony.

“Consequently, Hyde900 organised a limited scale single trench dig, to be staffed by some of our experienced volunteers, as it was expected that any remains would be at least 1.5 metres below the grass. As ever Professor Martin Biddle took a keen interest in the plans, and visited the dig at an early stage, being in Winchester for the launch of a further volume in the Winchester Excavations series.

“After an early find of a Morris Minor bumper and plenty of demolition rubble left over from the Bridewell, the prison built in 1793 over the site of the church, the team were delighted to see the remains of the core of a medieval wall, amazingly only 80cm below ground level.

“Further digging revealed a huge foundation, for what can only be the north wall of the church, no less than 2.7 metres in width.”

Prof Biddle expressed his pleasure at the results and said: “What a tremendous amount of new and important information from one trench.

“It’s a really vital addition to what we know about this important abbey.”

Paul and Kat McCulloch were also delighted at the discovery.

They said: “This dig has achieved results far beyond our expectations.

“To find intact stonework from the 12th-century abbey is rare; the excavation now confirms the exact location of the abbey nave.

“In addition, the find of a rare sculptured beakhead, perhaps representing a mythical beast, such as a Griffin, was a bonus. It is most likely to be a fragment of a voussoir (the wedge-shaped stone which is part of an arch) forming one of the orders of the arch over the doorway to the church. This will shortly be on display in Winchester Museum.”

The results of the dig have helped the Hyde900 expert cartographer Dave Stewart to redraw the north wall abbey church with certainty – but the west end is perhaps for the next annual Hyde900 Community dig scheduled for August 18-21.

Miniature Bible the Size of a Coin Found in UK Library Storage

Miniature Bible the Size of a Coin Found in UK Library Storage

A tiny Bible that can only be read with a magnifying glass is among thousands of mysterious treasures rediscovered at a Leeds library during the lockdown. The 1911 miniature replica of the 16th century ‘chained Bible’ is about the size of a £2 coin but contains both the Old and New testaments printed on 876 gossamer-thin India paper pages. 

Librarians said the origins of the bible, which measures 1.9in (50mm) by 1.3in (35mm), are a mystery. 

Rhian Isaac, special collections senior librarian at Leeds City Library, said the book was billed as the smallest Bible in the world when it was printed, although this was almost certainly not true.

Asked where it came from, she said: ‘We don’t know. It’s a bit of a mystery, really. A lot of items in our collection were either bought over time or might have been donated.

‘We’ve done quite a lot of work during the lockdown on cataloguing our rare books and special collections.

‘Before that, hardly any of these books had ever been seen by anyone or ever been found, really.’

Librarians said the origins of the bible, which measures 1.9in (50mm) by 1.3in (35mm), are a mystery. It can only be read with a magnifying glass

Ms Isaac said the Bible’s origins were a mystery because it only resurfaced when library staff decided to do a comprehensive survey during the Covid lockdowns.

More than 3,000 new items have been catalogued, including some dating back to the 15th century.

Among them was a copy of Nouveau Cours de Mathematique, by Bernard Forest de Bélidor (1725) and Oliver Twiss — a rip-off version of Oliver Twist which was printed by the creators of the Penny Dreadfuls. 

The great Victorian novelist was so angered by the plagiarised works that he went to court to have them banned. But the judge in the case ruled that ‘no person who had ever seen the original could imagine the other to be anything else than a counterfeit’. 

Also among the discoveries was a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, dating to 1497. Oddly, however, the Leeds City Library copy has the outline of a key pressed into it, suggesting one was hidden inside the book.

Librarians are now hoping the tiny Bible and other items found will be cherished by all visitors and not just academics and researchers. 

A miniature Bible in a man’s palm.
Ms Isaac said the Bible’s origins were a mystery because it only resurfaced when library staff decided to do a comprehensive survey during the Covid lockdowns

‘It’s a massive thing for us,’ Ms Isaac said. ‘Now people can come in and find them and look at them.’

She said anyone can come in and ask to see the tiny Bible.  

‘We ask people to get in touch and we can bring them out for people to see. You don’t have to be an academic or a researcher. 

‘If you’re just interested, we can get them out for you and you can come and read them in our beautiful Grade II-listed building, which is a wonderful place to come and do some studying,’ Ms Isaac added.

‘We would rather these books were used and read. That’s what they were made for and that’s what we encourage people to come in and do, instead of locking them away.

‘They belong to everyone in Leeds. We’re just the guardians of them, really.’

Ms Isaac said a visitor may even come in with a clue to where the Bible came from.

A new study tells Stonehenge was ‘built on land inhabited by deer, elk and wild boar’

A new study tells Stonehenge was ‘built on land inhabited by deer, elk and wild boar’

Red deer, elk and wild boar would have roamed opened woodland and meadow-like clearings in the area of Stonehenge 4,000 years before the iconic standing stones were constructed, according to new research.

A new study tells Stonehenge was 'built on land inhabited by deer, elk and wild boar'
The study reveals the environmental history of the Wiltshire site

Scientists from the University of Southampton have examined Blick Mead, a Mesolithic archaeological site about a mile away, and found that the area had not been covered in dense, closed-canopy forests as previously thought.

Instead, they believe that it would have been populated by grazing animals and hunter-gatherers.

An Aurochs bone with cut marks

Lead researcher, Samuel Hudson, of Geography and Environmental Science at Southampton, explained: “There has been the intensive study of the Bronze Age and Neolithic history of the Stonehenge landscape, but less is known about earlier periods.

“The integration of evidence recovered from previous excavations at Blick Mead, coupled with our own fieldwork, allowed us to understand more about the flora and fauna of the landscape prior to construction of the later world-famous monument complex.

“Past theories suggest the area was thickly wooded and cleared in later periods for farming and monument building.

“However, our research points to pre-Neolithic, hunting-gatherer inhabitants, living in open woodland which supported aurochs and other grazing herbivores.”

The research team analysed pollen, fungal spores and traces of DNA preserved in ancient sediment (sedaDNA), combined with optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and radiocarbon dating to produce an environmental history of the Wiltshire site.

Using this evidence, they built a picture of the habitat in the area from the later Mesolithic (5500 BC) to the Neolithic period (from 4,000 BC).

Scientists examined Blick Mead

A university spokesman said: “The study indicates that later Mesolithic populations at Blick Mead took advantage of more open conditions to repeatedly exploit groups of large ungulates (hoofed mammals) until a transition to farmers and monument-builders took place.

“In a sense, the land was pre-adapted for the later large-scale monument building, as it did not require clearance of woodland, due to the presence of these pre-existing open habitats.

“The researchers suggest there was continuity between the inhabitants of the two eras, who utilised the land in different ways but understood it to be a favourable location.”

The findings of the team from Southampton, working with colleagues at the universities of Buckingham, Tromso and Salzburg, are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Ancient skeletons reveal the history of worm parasites in Britain

Ancient skeletons reveal the history of worm parasites in Britain

Britons have suffered from worms since the Bronze Age, new research shows, with parasite infections peaking during the Roman and Late Medieval periods.

Things began to get better during the Industrial period, in part thanks to improvements in hygiene in parts of the UK, before the Victorian ‘Sanitary Revolution’ ushered in a nationwide reduction in infections.

Oxford researchers analysed ancient skeletons in an effort to establish the size and scale of parasitic worm infections in the UK over the course of history.

They hope that understanding how parasitic worm infections changed in the past, it could help public health measures in regions of the world still experiencing problems today. 

Infections with parasitic worms are a big problem in some tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. 

Ancient skeletons reveal the history of worm parasites in Britain
Britons have suffered from worms since the Bronze Age, new research shows. Pictured, fish tapeworm eggs unearthed in a previous study into Bronze Age Britons in The Fens in Cambridgeshire
The Bronze Age settlement at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire consisted of wooden houses built on stilts above the water. They believe the parasites were caught because the villagers foraged for food in the stagnant lakes and waterways around their homes

But in the past, they were much more widespread and were common throughout Europe.

The research team looked for worm eggs in the soil from the region where the infected intestines of 464 human skeletons would have been, at 17 sites dating from the Bronze Age to the Industrial Revolution.

They found that worm infections peaked in Britain during the Roman and Late Medieval periods when infection rates were similar to those seen in the most affected regions today.

Things changed in the Industrial period. Worm infection rates differed a lot between different sites – some sites had little evidence of infection, while in others there was a lot of infection.

The researchers think that local changes in sanitation and hygiene may have reduced infection in some areas before nationwide changes during the Victorian ‘Sanitary Revolution’.

The co-first authors, Hannah Ryan and Patrik Flammer said: ‘Defining the patterns of infection with intestinal worms can help us to understand the health, diet and habits of past populations. 

‘More than that, defining the factors that led to changes in infection levels (without modern drugs) can provide support for approaches to control these infections in modern populations.’

Britons have suffered from worms since the Bronze Age, new research shows. Pictured, a human whipworm

Humans are infected with roundworms and whipworms through contamination by faecal matter and catch some tapeworms by eating raw or undercooked meat or fish. 

The team will next use their array of parasite-based approaches to investigate other infections in the past. This includes more large-scale analyses of human burials, as well as continuing their ancient DNA work.

Their ambition is to employ a multidisciplinary approach, working closely with archaeologists, historians, parasitologists, biologists and other interested groups to use parasites to help understand the past.

The study has been published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Study Investigates Anglo-Saxon Diets

Study Investigates Anglo-Saxon Diets

Very few people in England ate large amounts of meat before the Vikings settled, and there is no evidence that elites ate more meat than other people, a major new bioarchaeological study suggests. Its sister study also argues that peasants occasionally hosted lavish meat feasts for their rulers. The findings overturn major assumptions about early medieval English history.

Food list compiled during the reign of King Ine of Wessex (c. 688-726), part of the Textus Roffensis
  • ‘You are what you eat’ isotopic analysis of over 2,000 skeletons is by far the largest of its kind.
  • Early medieval diets were far more similar across social groups than previously thought.
  • Peasants didn’t give kings food as exploitative tax, they hosted feasts suggesting they were granted more respect than previously assumed.
  • Surviving food lists are supplies for special feasts not blueprints for everyday elite diets.
  • Some feasts served up an estimated 1kg of meat and 4,000 Calories in total, per person.

Picture medieval England and royal feasts involving copious amounts of meat immediately spring to mind. Historians have long assumed that royals and nobles ate far more meat than the rest of the population and that free peasants were forced to hand over food to sustain their rulers throughout the year in an exploitative system known as feorm or food-rent.

But a pair of Cambridge co-authored studies published today in the journal Anglo-Saxon England present a very different picture, one which could transform our understanding of early medieval kingship and society.

While completing a PhD at the University of Cambridge, bioarchaeologist Sam Leggett gave a presentation which intrigued historian Tom Lambert (Sidney Sussex College). Now at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Leggett had analysed chemical signatures of diets preserved in the bones of 2,023 people buried in England from the 5th – to 11th centuries. She then cross-referenced these isotopic findings with evidence for social status such as grave goods, body position and grave orientation. Leggett’s research revealed no correlation between social status and high protein diets.

That surprised Tom Lambert because so many medieval texts and historical studies suggest that Anglo-Saxon elites did eat large quantities of meat. The pair started to work together to find out what was really going on.

They began by deciphering a food list compiled during the reign of King Ine of Wessex (c. 688-726) to estimate how much food it records and what its calorie content might have been. They estimated that the supplies amounted to 1.24 million kcal, over half of which came from animal protein. The list included 300 bread rolls so the researchers worked on the basis that one bun was served to each diner to calculate overall portions. Each guest would have received 4,140 kcal from 500g of mutton; 500g of beef; another 500g of salmon, eel and poultry; plus cheese, honey and ale.

The researchers studied ten other comparable food lists from southern England and discovered a remarkably similar pattern: a modest amount of bread, a huge amount of meat, a decent but not excessive quantity of ale, and no mention of vegetables (although some probably were served).

Lambert says: “The scale and proportions of these food lists strongly suggest that they were provisions for occasional grand feasts, and not general food supplies sustaining royal households on a daily basis. These were not blueprints for everyday elite diets as historians have assumed.”

“I’ve been to plenty of barbecues where friends have cooked ludicrous amounts of meat so we shouldn’t be too surprised. The guests probably ate the best bits and then leftovers might have been stewed up for later.”

Leggett says: “I’ve found no evidence of people eating anything like this much animal protein on a regular basis. If they were, we would find isotopic evidence of excess protein and signs of diseases like gout from the bones. But we’re just not finding that.”

“The isotopic evidence suggests that diets in this period were much more similar across social groups than we’ve been led to believe. We should imagine a wide range of people livening up bread with small quantities of meat and cheese, or eating pottages of leeks and whole grains with a little meat thrown in.”

The researchers believe that even royals would have eaten a cereal-based diet and that these occasional feasts would have been a treat for them too.

Peasants feeding kings

These feasts would have been lavish outdoor events at which whole oxen were roasted in huge pits, examples of which have been excavated in East Anglia.

Lambert says: “Historians generally assume that medieval feasts were exclusively for elites. But these food lists show that even if you allow for huge appetites, 300 or more people must have attended. That means that a lot of ordinary farmers must have been there, and this has big political implications.”

Kings in this period – including Rædwald, the early seventh-century East Anglian king perhaps buried at Sutton Hoo – are thought to have received renders of food, known in Old English as feorm or food-rent, from the free peasants of their kingdoms. It is often assumed that these were the primary source of food for royal households and that kings’ own lands played a minor supporting role at best. As kingdoms expanded, it has also been assumed that food-rent was redirected by royal grants to sustain a broader elite, making them even more influential over time.

But Lambert studied the use of the word feorm in different contexts, including aristocratic wills, and concludes that the term referred to a single feast and not this primitive form of tax. This is significant because food-rent required no personal involvement from a king or lord, and no show of respect to the peasants who were duty-bound to provide it. When kings and lords attended communal feasts in person, however, the dynamics would have been very different.

Lambert says: “We’re looking at kings travelling to massive barbecues hosted by free peasants, people who owned their own farms and sometimes slaves to work on them. You could compare it to a modern presidential campaign dinner in the US. This was a crucial form of political engagement.”

This rethinking could have far-reaching implications for medieval studies and English political history more generally. Food renders have informed theories about the beginnings of English kingship and land-based patronage politics, and are central to ongoing debates about what led to the subjection of England’s once-free peasantry.

Leggett and Lambert are now eagerly awaiting the publication of isotopic data from the Winchester Mortuary Chests which are thought to contain the remains of Egbert, Canute and other Anglo-Saxon royals. These results should provide unprecedented insights into the period’s most elite eating habits.

Archaeologists were left baffled by a grim Roman discovery made in Wales: ‘Quite peculiar’

Archaeologists were left baffled by a grim Roman discovery made in Wales: ‘Quite peculiar’

Archaeologists were left baffled by a grim Roman discovery made in Wales: 'Quite peculiar'
This decapitated man, whose head was placed at his feet, was found in a Romano-British burial.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a possible Roman mercenary buried with his sword and the skeleton of another Roman-period man whose decapitated head lay at his feet in Wales, in the United Kingdom. 

Investigations into these two distinct burials are ongoing, as is an examination of the other burials at the site, which has been used by humans since the Stone Age. One spot, for instance, has hundreds of burials from two different time periods; people who lived during the early medieval period (A.D. 410 to 1169) chose to bury their dead within a mound that had been used as a burial ground during the Bronze Age (2500 B.C. to 800 B.C.), the team found.

“[The early medieval people] went back to the prehistoric site to make this burial mound, even though it was a Christian period, and you would expect them to be buried around a chapel or a church,” excavation project director Mark Collard, an archaeologist and director of Rubicon Heritage, an Ireland-based archaeological firm, told Live Science. 

Archaeologists first discovered the site in the 1960s, upon finding the remains of Iron Age roundhouses (800 B.C. to A.D. 43) and the Whitton Lodge Roman Villa built on a farmstead dating to the Roman period (A.D 43 to 410).

However, it wasn’t until recently that, during an archaeological survey ahead of a road construction project, archaeologists realized the site preserved far more history.

The Whitton Lodge Roman Villa was first discovered in the 1960s.

From 2017 through most of 2018, Rubicon Heritage excavated the site and since then has been working on a monograph or a detailed, peer-reviewed description of the site. In March, Rubicon Heritage released an eBook and an online interactive map of the site, known as 5 Mile Lane.

The earliest evidence at 5 Mile Lane is hunter-gather flint tools dating to the Mesolithic, or the Middle Stone Age (8000 B.C. to 4000 B.C.), Collard said. “It shows that Mesolithic people are going through the area” and hunting animals such as aurochs (Bos primigenius), an extinct cattle species, he said. 

People living there during the Neolithic, or New Stone Age (4000 B.C. to 2500 B.C.), built some type of communally-used ritual structure, according to several large pits or postholes that archaeologists found. “It basically looks like a large post alignment running across the countryside,” Collard said.

The team also unearthed the remains of a person in a crouched position buried nearby, suggesting that the burial was tied to this ritual landscape, he said.

A late Bronze Age crouch burial at the base of the monument.
A late Bronze Age crouch burial at the base of the monument.

Archaeologists found the remains of several roundhouses and mound burials dating to the Bronze Age. But it wasn’t until the Iron Age that the landscape became more settled with small, timber-built and thatched round houses and cultivated farmland, Collard said. These farms were close together — less than 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) apart — and had domesticated animals and grain processing.

“It shows how dense the settlement was,” Collard said. These people were also producing iron tools, such as knives, he noted. Eventually, people switched from round houses to rectangular stone Roman buildings.

“We don’t know if it was the same owners or the same family, but we like to think that the continuity was there. And they just took on with new fashions and assimilated into the Roman Empire,” he said.

Collard and his colleagues plan to test whether there actually was continuity by examining preserved DNA found in the human burials, especially the roughly 450 burials found in the mound used by both the Bronze Age and early medieval peoples. 

It’s likely that this gently sloped area at 5 Mile Lane was well-used because “it’s very rich farming land around there,” Collard said. “It’s good for growing crops but also for keeping animals” pastured and had “access to the sea, which is a couple of miles away,” he said. It was also “close to the highway” — a nearby Roman road that was heavily trafficked.

An aerial view of the Bronze Age burial monument that was reused during medieval times.
Binoculars found at 5 Mile Lane date to World War II.

The mercenary and the decapitated man

The possible mercenary had a “quite peculiar” burial, Collard said. “It’s in the middle of a field near the Roman villa looking out over the valley and over the sea … It’s a great place to be buried.” The deceased was buried prone, or face down, with a long iron sword, a silver crossbow brooch and hobnail boots inside a coffin closed with iron nails. The sword and brooch are indicative of Roman military regalia dating to the late fourth to early fifth centuries A.D., the researchers found.

It’s not certain how the man — who stood up to 5 feet, 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall and was in his early 20s — died, but he may have suffered from a middle-ear infection that spread to his skull, the team found.

During the late Roman period, when this man was alive, Roman control broke down in what is now the United Kingdom, leading the empire to take on mercenaries to fight off invaders, Collard said. So, it’s possible that this man, whose brooch looks like those found in continental Europe, was a Roman mercenary or possibly even an invader who took over the Roman villa, Collard said. Genetic analysis of the man’s remains will hopefully shed light on his roots, Collard added.

The decapitated man was also in his 20s when he died during the Roman period. His skull had been removed and placed at the feet, and the remains of wood and iron nails indicate that he was buried in a coffin or a board that had a shroud over it, the team found.

About 2% to 3% of burials at Roman sites include decapitated people, likely from executions, according to a 2021 study in the journal Britannia. This practice may have been used to separate the soul from the body or to prevent the body from rising again, Collard said.