The site is off Main St. Aidan Smyth, Archaeology & Planning Advisor for Wychavon and Malvern Hills District Councils decided to strip the entire site and then sample the features that were present. The strip discovered ditches, occupation features, pits, structures and human remains.
The pits and ditches show that the site was under use for at least 3-5 centuries. We have the usual Roman pottery mixed with later pottery which we would expect on a Romano-British site, but today some Anglo Saxon pottery was shown to me which came from what looks to be a stone capped cess pit.
Below is a ‘T’ shape corn drier.
It wasn’t just rubble built, there are worked stones within the feature. There was a light grey ash fill which contained the waste from the last firing of the drier, so we will get a final date for the use of the feature. The stone structure is designed like a horizontal chimney, it was covered by a timber post built structure, the floor was normally timber. The corn would be hung at the top of the T, the fire at the base in a small hearth, the building above would get quite toasty, so it’s likely that the floor was also used to dry foodstuffs like grain.
There were two corn driers on site, the one above was better preserved. Very interestingly there are two burials at the top of the driers, adolescents by the look of the femurs. This is really interesting as the Romans never buried within the occupation site but would often bury people in or around corn driers outside the town boundary. Babies weren’t considered to be people so we do find them under floors and walls within towns.
This was the first burial to be excavated. You’ll notice the head by the feet, not a result of a freak burial mishap, this is common in Roman burials. Common but not uniform, the Romans were like us in many ways, they buried in coffins, cremations, had grave stones but in some cases removed the head and placed it by the feet of the dead. It was once believed that this marked the death of a wrong doer, then it was suggested that it was the burial right of gladiators. In truth on many sites almost 40% of burials were decapitated, men, women and children alike. We will never really know why. However my favourite theory is that the Romans were quite worried about ghosts and being haunted by the dead, so they would remove the head so the ghost couldn’t get them…
Sadly this body has been truncated by agricultural activity, ploughing has removed the lower legs and the skull, the pelvis has also been damaged, the pelvis is really useful so we can determine gender onsite.
This image shows the remains in context with one of the corn driers. The remains have now been removed and sent to Cardiff for further investigation, we should find age at death and gender. We can sometimes get the cause of death but that does depend on it being death by trauma rather than a more natural death, but the bones do often leave marks from disease.
Once the final report has been submitted to me and approved, the skeletal remains will be deposited with Hartlebury Museum and remain there in perpetuity. We can’t re bury as we don’t know what the burial right is, the bodies could be dug up again in the future if we did re bury and would be even more confusing. The dead are a growing problem in museums taking up valuable space, a good reason to be cremated…
This site will be occupied by housing, I will request an interpretation board be fitted near to a landscaped area. The stones from the corn drier will be trashed by development so as the features have been fully recorded I have suggested that they be re-used within the landscaping area, the developer has agreed to this and is working with me currently.