Hampshire Archaeology

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Buried in time – eight Romano-Britons (Burntwood Farm)

This site, to the west of Burntwood Farm, was excavated in the 1970s as part of the M3 (motorway archaeology) project. It lies 4 km north-east of Winchester, overlooking a bend of the River Itchen. A small isolated cemetery was found, consisting of eight large graves of Romano-British date.  Seven of the graves lay head-to-toe alongside a shallow boundary ditch which ran in a north easterly direction towards a Roman road; an eighth grave lay some 40m away by the junction of the ditch and road. The road was heavily rutted and repaired with flint nodules.  Pottery analysis indicates that it was probably in use during most of the Roman period, running parallel with, and to the east of, the Winchester-Silchester Roman road (now the A33) and cutting across prehistoric field systems.

The Roman road or 'hollow way'.

The Roman road or ‘hollow way’.

Five females, two males and a child had been buried in oak coffins, all except one with their heads at the western end of the grave. The grave at the road-ditch junction contained a female, aged 25-40. This skeleton was lying on its side, with its legs crossed above the knees and the arms crossed above the wrists. At least two of the 40 or more coffin nails had impressions of oak. Around 90 iron studs and nails from the shoes with which she was buried were also recovered. Given the number of shoe nails found in this and another of the female burials, the design of the shoe soles was probably more complex than a simple three-row pattern.

Coffin burial of a female aged 25-35. The New Forest jug (near the skull) was probably placed on the coffin lid.

Coffin burial of a female aged 25-35. The New Forest jug (near the skull) was probably placed on the coffin lid.

Male burial (30-40) in a coffin represented by 100 nails and fragments of oak and birch. A New Forest beaker was placed near the head.

Male burial (30-40) in a coffin represented by 100 nails and fragments of oak and birch. A New Forest beaker was placed near the head.

Oak was a component in the construction of all eight coffins; five of the burials included grave goods which indicated a 4th century date. A single pot was found with four of the inumations, and the child burial (an infant of 2.5 – 3 years) was accompanied by a narrow-spouted New Forest Fine Ware flask and a Black Burnished flanged pie-dish of 4th century form. Two other graves contained examples of New Forest Fine Ware. Another inhumation burial, probably of an adult female, included a globular–bodied flask with a broken neck, possibly orange Oxidised Ware from the Oxfordshire kilns.

Detail of a male burial (aged 25-35) accompanied by a New Forest globular flask.

Detail of a male burial (aged 25-35) accompanied by a New Forest globular flask.

The Burntwood Farm pottery vessels from all the graves.

The Burntwood Farm pottery vessels from all the graves.

The linear arrangement of seven of the burials along a land boundary ditch is unusual, and may have been intended as the first stage of an ordered cemetery which was never taken any further.

A1978.17 – M3 site R6

Further reading: Fasham, P (1980) Hampshire Studies, 36, pp 37-86

 Series by Dave Allen, Sarah Gould, Lesley Johnson, Jane King, with help from Stacie Elliot.

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