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Somerton – amazing archaeological finds

In late 2019 archaeologists working at the site of the new King Ina Primary School in Northfields Somerton made an unexpected discovery. Outlines of iron age huts and Romano British dwellings were discovered on the site of the new school.

That in itself caused a lot of local interest. However sites like this are not uncommon in central Somerset. Similar sites have been found at Bowdens quarry near Langport, at Pitney and High Ham. The famous Low Ham mosaic was discovered in a similar setting just before the Second World War.

Now however new finds have emerged at the Somerton site. These are of a different order of magnitude. The archaeologists have found what is believed to be the largest Roman cemetery ever discovered in Somerset and one of the most significant in recent years in the south west.

For context we’ll let South West Heritage Trust archaeologist Steve Membery explain “This site is a significant discovery – the most comprehensive modern excavation of a Roman cemetery in Somerset.”

During the course of Tuesday (7th January) morning The Leveller® met members of the archaeology team working on the site and local county councillor Dean Ruddle. Dean had done a lot of the work that led to the site at Northfields being chosen for the school.

The site is quite impressive. The graves were dug into the bedrock and lined with stone ‘curbs’ to create a coffinlike structure. These were then sealed with flat lias slabs. However some of the graves also have much more unusual ‘tented’ roofs

The burials were of adults and children and included grave goods such as pottery, coins and brooches all of which can add colour to our understanding of what life might have been like in Roman Somerton. Most of the burials follow the Roman tradition of placing a pot alongside the head in the grave.

Does this give evidence of a substantial community in Somerton in Roman times? Traditionally the town is thought to have been Anglo Saxon in origin, but this find could rewrite the history of Somerton.

Added to which some of the grave goods have been of particular interest, including coins, lead weights, brooches, cooking pots all things that can give us a glimpse of life in Roman times. Some examples are shown below (all images courtesy of Wessex Archaeology)

We will have more on this dig and the significance of the finds in due course, watch this space!

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