Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Romans live on at city college

Cambridge City News, Cambridge Local News Stories & Latest Headlines About Cambridge | How Romans live on at city college

Excavation work at Newnham College
Signs of a Roman settlement have been unearthed in the grounds of Cambridge's Newnham College.

An archaeological excavation in the college's gardens has also discovered evidence of a 16th or 17th century farmhouse that could date back to the reign of Henry VIII.

The findings were made during a dig supervised by Cambridge University archaeologists Catherine Hills and Carenza Lewis.

A group of 20 sixth-formers from the region came to the centuries-old college to help carry out the excavation.

Dr Hills said: "We knew there was a Roman settlement here, but we had no idea of the size.

"The village has been buried for nearly 2,000 years, and may have seen the Roman conquest.

"The 16th-century farmhouse was a complete surprise."

The site first became of interest in the late 1930s when five skeletons, said to be Anglo-Saxon, were discovered while air raid shelters were being dug in readiness for the Second World War.

Headed by Dorothy Garrod – the university's first female professor and a renowned archaeologist – a team of women from the college excavated the graves using spoons and toothbrushes.

After the war, the air raid shelters were covered with soil and the exact location of the graves was lost.

But when Dr Hills heard about the story, she was keen to find out more about the mysterious skeletons.

Dr Hills, Dr Lewis, and college staff saw an opportunity to involve students in the hunt for the skeletons, demonstrating the excitement of archaeology.
But the dig unearthed unexpected finds.

Large amounts of Roman pottery convinced both Dr Hills and Dr Lewis that they had dug through to the remains of a 2,000-year-old settlement.

Dr Lewis, who has appeared regularly on the popular archaeology television programme Time Team, said: "East Anglia is rich in Roman and medieval remains.

"People threw away a lot of rubbish, and their old pottery and animal bones are now allowing archaeologists to discover the existence of entire villages.
"We are starting to realise the huge extent of Roman settlement around this area."
Meanwhile, underground, the mystery of the skeletons remains.
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