Roman cemetery found under school field

Cotswold Archaeology made an exciting discovery of part of a Roman cemetery during excavations at Cotswold School, Gloucestershire, prior to the building of their new Maths Block. Twenty-one human burials were excavated, eighteen are most probably Roman in date, with three more suggestive of earlier Iron Age dating.

The inhumation burials were of males, females, children and infants. At least two of the adults were buried in stone cist-type graves (where the sides of the grave are faced with stone) and four infants were buried in smaller stone box cists. Similar stone cist graves have been found across southern England and are generally thought to date to the late Roman period.

Cotswold School excavation site
Cotswold School excavation site

“This is an exciting discovery for us” said Laurie Coleman, project manager for Cotswold Archaeology, “The use of cists and deep graves for burial has meant that many of the remains have been incredibly well preserved, which makes excavation and analysis so much easier.”

The position of the feet of one of the child burials seems to suggest that this child was buried in a shroud. Other interesting grave finds include a Roman Denarius coin (dating to the 2nd century AD) which was probably placed in the mouth of one of the adult males, as per the Roman belief of providing payment to the ferryman Charon to row the soul of the deceased across the River Styx the land of the dead.

Earlier, Iron Age finds include a further three burials, Iron Age pottery and a group of postholes that could indicate a partial roundhouse in the south-eastern part of the site.

Pupils at Cotswold School enjoying a talk from Cotswold Archaeology on site.

Pupils from Cotswold School and the nearby Bourton Primary and Great Rissington Schools were given the fantastic opportunity to see ‘archaeology in action’ on their own doorstep. Once the remains were removed to Cotswold Archaeology’s Cirencester office, pupils were treated to a fascinating talk onsite by Project Supervisor, Diarmuid O’Seaneachain: “I was able to talk to them about the work of an archaeology team and show the children exactly where important Roman and Iron Age finds had been discovered.”

Ms Val Turner from Cotswold School said: “It was just brilliant for the children to see first-hand an actual archaeological excavation. This is a superb way of learning how we find out about the past.”