Human burials unearthed in Gloucestershire

It appears that, in one burial, the skull of the deceased was positioned between their legs.

A wealth of evidence of Roman activity, along with a number of human burials believed to date to the Roman or Anglo-Saxon period, have been uncovered near Stroud, Gloucestershire.

The discoveries were made during ongoing excavations at an area situated near the River Frome, south of Junction 13 on the M5 motorway, where the remains of the Whitminster Roman villa were first recorded in the 1920s and later subject to small-scale excavation in the 1960s and 70s.

Cotswold Archaeology exhuming several of the graves. Image: Cotswold Archaeology

Geophysical survey and trial trenching conducted by a team from Cotswold Archaeology in 2015 shed further light on the original excavations at the villa, revealing the remains of opus signinum (a paving material formed of crushed terracotta) floors, a malting kiln or corn dryer, animal bones, pottery, coins, tesserae, and flue and roof tiles.

Adjacent to the villa, these latest excavations by Cotswold Archaeology have, so far, led to the identification of field boundaries, enclosures, pits, and post-holes which likely also relate to the period of Roman occupation at the site.

Among the most recent discoveries are ten human burials, six of which were found in close proximity to each other, at the very edge of the floodplain.

It appears that, in one grave, the skull of the deceased was positioned between their legs.

Another individual was interred with a knife at their hip. As Roman burials seldom included knives as grave goods, it may indicate that these individuals, in fact, lived and died during the Anglo-Saxon era.

The presence of an Anglo-Saxon stone structure nearby – which had utilised repurposed fragments of tegula roof tile likely obtained from the Whitminster villa – supports this theory.

Burial uncovered during excavations near the Roman villa of Whitminster. Image: Cotswold Archaeology

Other finds at the site include numerous furrows associated with at least two phases of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation, as well as a stretch of the Stroudwater Navigation – a canal in operation from 1779 until its abandonment in 1954.

Cotswold Archaeology will continue their investigations for several more weeks; they are being carried out ahead of the construction of the ‘Eco Park’ – a new stadium for Forest Green Rovers FC.