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Ancient remains of dozens of people found on site of new school

A woman believed to have been laid to rest with a pillow under her head is among the discoveries unearthed at an ancient burial site in Somerset.

The remains of dozens of adults and children have been found by archaeologists on the site of a new primary school, shedding new light on society during the age of the Romans.

Dating back to between 43 and 410 AD, many of the burials – which were dug into the bedrock and lined with stones to create a coffin-like structure – included pottery and brooches.

Most of the burials had a traditional Roman pot alongside them. Pic: South West Heritage Trust/Wessex Archaeology
Image: Most of the burials had a traditional Roman pot alongside them

Archaeologist Steve Membery said the items buried suggested the individuals were “of some status in native society”, and displayed evidence of the transition between the Iron Age and Roman times.

Mr Membery added: “The burials also show early adoption of Roman burial practices, such as offerings, alongside traditionally Iron Age characteristics.”

Some of the graves – which were found in the town of Somerton – were sealed with a slab of rock known as lias, while others had a tent-style roof.

Traces of Iron Age roundhouses and of a Roman building were also evident.

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Mr Membery said the unusual finds, overseen by the South West Heritage Trust, were the result of the “most comprehensive modern excavation of a Roman cemetery in Somerset”.

Aerial drones were among the equipment used during the excavation process, with full scientific analysis to follow.

An aerial view of the site shows the presence of Iron Age roundhouses. Pic: South West Heritage Trust/Wessex Archaeology
Image: An aerial view of the site shows the presence of Iron Age roundhouses

It is hoped that the discoveries can be used to teach children at the new 420-pupil school about the history of the area, and that the archaeology of the roundhouses can be reflected in the site development.

Work on the school was delayed while experts from Wessex Archaeology dug the site, with construction expected to resume later this month.

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