Ancient skeletons unearthed near airbase
PLANS to make Americans feel more at home in Suffolk has led to a mass excavation of human and animal skeletons from the Iron and Roman Age.A small part of RAF Mildenhall has been taken over by Suffolk County Council's archaeological service field team after military personnel asked for a baseball field to be built.
PLANS to make Americans feel more at home in Suffolk has led to a mass excavation of human and animal skeletons from the Iron and Roman Age.
A small part of RAF Mildenhall has been taken over by Suffolk County Council's archaeological service field team after military personnel asked for a baseball field to be built.
The team have unearthed a number of artefacts from the early Bronze Age through to the end of the Roman period.
Three burials have already been excavated on the 9,000-squared metre site and there are hopes further discoveries could lead to clues of an ancient cemetery.
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For planning permission to be granted on the site, known to have archaeological interest, a large-scale excavation on the Fen edge side of the base is underway.
Andrew Tester, senior project officer, said the artefacts found, which include cattle bones, pottery and flint tools, have helped them find out about life 2,000 years ago.
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He said: "From what we have found, the economy appears to have been based around herding cattle. We have found lots of cattle bones and settlement evidence where people might have lived.
"We think there was a lot of driving herds between the Brecklands and Fens.
"The economy seems to change in the later Roman period and turn to arable farming – we have found a large Roman building, possibly agricultural."
In one of the more interesting finds, the skeleton of a man from the Roman period, believed to be about 30 years old and muscular, was found on the airbase.
He admitted: "It is fairly unusual and I have no idea why he was face down. "In the early Roman period, there were changes in religious practice and ideas but we are not sure if this is a reason."
Two more burials have been excavated – two in a traditional crouch burial believed to be from the Iron Age.
The earliest evidence consisted of highly decorated Beaker pottery and flint tools while a large amount of cattle bone, dating back to the early Iron Age at 600BC, has also been excavated.
Evidence of a Roman building has also been uncovered with the remains of a horse's head, spine and ribs inside the boundaries. About 15 people will be spending three months on the site.
One of them, project assistant Rob Brooksfrom Bury St Edmunds, said: "This area could be the start of a cemetery but we can't really tell for sure. We know we have found two Roman burials because you can tell from the coffin remains and there is some Roman pottery nearby."
Mr Tester added: "With the cross section of different eras, we can see developments and the changes in economy and the influence of foreigners.
"The whole excavation has created a massive buzz and we feel it has been very rewarding."
Mr Tester said the Fen edge was a very rich area in the Roman period, as indicated by the well-known Mildenhall Treasure.
The 1,500-year-old Roman silver was found by ploughman Gordon Butcher on land in West Row 60 years ago and is now in the British Museum.
In 1997 at RAF Lakenheath, the remains of a Saxon leader and his horse, buried around 550AD, were excavated at a former baseball pitch at the base.