News in brief: Roman burials and digital archaeology

Burials near Whitminster villa

Ten human burials have been uncovered at a development site near Stroud in Gloucester (below), which Cotswold Archaeology is investigating ahead of the construction of new training pitches for Forest Green Rovers FC.

IMAGE: Cotswold Archaeology.

Excavations at the site, which sits adjacent to Whitminster Roman villa, have yielded a wealth of finds from the Roman period, including pottery, tiles, and metal items. The burials may be later, though: one of the individuals was interred with a knife (an unusual grave good to find in a Roman burial), which could suggest that the people laid to rest at the site had lived during the Anglo-Saxon period.

Elsewhere on the site, the team has identified field boundaries, enclosures, pits, and post-holes, plus what may be an Anglo-Saxon stone structure made using materials recycled from the nearby Roman villa.

Aerial Photograph Explorer

Historic England has launched a new online tool – the Aerial Photograph Explorer – which has made over 400,000 aerial photographs available to view online for the first time.

The tool allows users to explore a digital map featuring aerial photographs taken between 1919 and the present day. Among the sites to be explored are Neolithic earthworks, Iron Age forts, and medieval villages, as well as 20th-century wartime and industrial landscapes.

The Explorer can be used by anyone keen to investigate the history of their local landscape and will be of use to industry professionals and local authorities for planning, archaeological investigations, and heritage projects. To search the platform, visit

Saintly paintings

Three portraits depicting early saints of the Catholic church – Pope Gregory I, St Jerome, and St Augustine of Hippo – have been conserved by the National Trust and returned to display at Chastleton House in West Oxfordshire.

A full technical analysis of the paintings, originally a set of four, was undertaken at the Courtauld Institute of Art’s Conservation Department (with funding, for the portrait of St Augustine, from the Getty Foundation panel painting initiative).

It is thought that the images were produced in Britain in the late 16th or early 17th century, but researchers also identified stylistic influences from the Netherlands. ‘We believe they were painted by native English or Anglo-Netherlandish artists,’ explained Rebecca Hellen, the Trust’s Senior National Conservator of Paintings.

The fourth portrait – St Ambrose of Milan – has been missing since the early 20th century. ‘It might have been sold or given away and so could be hanging on somebody’s wall, unrecognised,’ said Ruth Peters, Senior Collections and House Officer at Chastleton.