Iron Age funeral site discovered on the Solihull HS2 site in England.

Iron Age funeral site discovered on the Solihull HS2 site in England.

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Iron Age funeral site discovered on the Solihull HS2 site in England.

On an area of the proposed HS2 line near Solihull, the Iron Age funeral site has been discovered. The forgotten graves, at least 2,000 years old, indicate that a settlement may have existed on the riverbank site way back in history. Archaeologists revealed the exciting find as they studied the project site ahead of construction work for the 225mph rail line.

Wessex Archaeology, which is excavating on behalf of HS2, found a cluster of several dozen “cremation graves” – from those placed on funeral pyres – at Coleshill.

The site dates back to the Iron Age, the last phase of the prehistoric period, which, for most of Europe, the Roman conquest brought to an abrupt end.

It is the most recent find on the site near the banks of the cole, which regularly received briefings from the Solihull Council HS2 Implementation Advisory Group.

Revealing the discovery this month, Emma Carter, from Wessex Archaeology, said that the experts were uncovering “tantalising” evidence from the distant past and an in-depth investigation of the graves would follow.

An aerial map shows where the cremation graves are located in relation to the wider dig-site

“[It] should offer some interesting ideas of what they do with their dead,” she said.

“When I say they, it’s probably going to be Iron Age people … You have 43 cremation-related deposits.”

Cremation was a widespread ritual for ancient people, although the spread of Roman customs eventually saw the practice become more and more infrequent.

In parts of Europe, the custom was ultimately forbidden, although its use for disposing of bodies eventually resurfaced in the 19th century.

As previously reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), the Coleshill site has been hailed because of the layers of history clustered in a relatively small location.

Aerial shot of the dig-site at Coleshill, which has been the scene of extensive investigations in recent months.

Iron Age roundhouses had once stood there generations ago, with archaeologists trying to establish whether these structures would have been occupied all year round or just during certain periods.

Artist’s concept of an Iron Age landscape, similar to the sort that would have been cultivated at Coleshill.

“You can imagine that staying in a roundhouse during the deep, dark, wet months of winter can be quite a difficult thing, whilst being there towards the summer months is probably a more pleasant experience. It also gives you more time to tend to your crops,” Ms. Carter added.

Aside from the remains of this settlement, the teams have also been investigating a Romano-British enclosure and will also be carrying out research into where a Medieval manor house once stood.

Physical items found on site have included Roman brooches, a serpent design from the Victorian era, and a coin dating from the 1500s – during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Wessex has been liaising with the council about options for an archaeological exhibition at The Core Library, in Solihull town center – which was originally scheduled for this summer but suffered a setback when coronavirus closed the venue.


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