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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Regular finds at Maryport Roman dig exciting experts

These budding archaeologists have made a series of breathtaking discoveries at Roman Maryport.

Maryport Roman finds photo
Amy-Grace Whillians-Welldrake, Elizabeth Mooney, Caitlin Godfrey and Emily Gilmour with their finds

The stunning finds have come just days after the excavation team unexpectedly found an early Christian burial ground.

None of the volunteers had been there longer than a fortnight when they unearthed the clues which add vital details to the slowly emerging picture.

The discoveries include large piece of architectural stonework, the corner of an altar capitol and a second altar fragment bearing a two letter inscription.

A necklace made of glass beads, possibly a sentimental keepsake deposited in a grave, a tiny fragment of clothing and a Neolithic arrowhead have also been found.

Amy-Grace Whillians-Welldrake, 21, found the arrowhead, followed hours later by a second discovery – a fragment of Roman altar.

Elizabeth Mooney, 17, found what appeared to be a carved keystone which is likely to be crucial in establishing the chronology of the site.

Emily Gilmour, 17, found a section of stone bearing part of a Roman inscription, while 18-year-old Caitlin Godfrey uncovered a chert core from which our Stone Age ancestors would have chipped off arrowheads.

Site director Tony Wilmott said the discovery of the keystone served to link the foundations of two buildings on the hilltop at Camp Farm. Experts now believe they were “probably contemporary”.

However, they have still not resolved the issue of the plan of the larger of the two buildings.

Project director professor Ian Haynes, of Newcastle University, said: “We still haven’t resolved the full plan of the site, and this will be our focus for the remaining weeks of the excavation.

“As far as the structures are concerned it’s looking as if there are at least two phases of construction.

“Meanwhile the graves that have been discovered indicate sustained use of the cemetery site.”

Painstaking excavation has revealed bone fragments, caps of tooth enamel and a tiny fragment, about the size of a thumbnail, of ancient textile.

Tony Wilmot, site director said: “Given the ground conditions at this site the survival of this scrap of material is nothing less than miraculous.

“We’re discovering new things on an almost daily basis which are giving us new insights into what happened on this site across hundreds of years.

“It will take a while to process all the information following the dig but what we think what we’re looking at now is a Christian cemetery close to a sequence of Christian religious buildings.

“If this is the case then this is a very exciting discovery – an early post-Roman Christian religious site occupied at the same time as other famous early Christian sites at Whithorn and at Hoddom in nearby Dumfriesshire.”

The bone fragments and the textile fragment will now be sent to an archaeological laboratory to see if there is enough material for radiocarbon dating.

The glass necklace will be conserved for display in the Senhouse Roman Museum in the town.

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