A child’s grave and pits full of bone shards, tooth enamel, bead necklaces and Roman roofing have been discovered in the massive archaeological dig which has turned Camp Farm, in Maryport, into a hotbed of Roman finds this summer.
The westernmost pit at the Cumbria site has been revealed as a long cist grave. Its stone lining is typical of burials at the end and shortly after the Roman era in the west of Europe and southern Scotland.
“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,” said Tony Wilmot, the site director.
“What we think we’re looking at 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 goods, which include a white quartz stone deliberately buried as a marker, have been dated to the period between 400 and 600AD.
Speculation that the acidic soils may once have been home to a major building began last year. Wilmot said the emergence of a tiny surviving fragment of ancient textile was “nothing less than miraculous”.
The deepest grave, which is lined with stones, is so small it is thought to have been made for a child.
The glass bead appears to have been buried separately to a body, although it would have been left on its wearer in a pagan grave.
A second grave is lined with pebbles and features a roman roofing slate acting as a pillow stone. It appears to have been the last of three graves created for three generations of burials.
The digging team from Newcastle University will now send the artefacts to laboratories for testing.
“The graves that have been discovered indicate sustained use of the cemetery site,” said Professor Ian Hynes, the project director for the excavation.
“As far as the structures are concerned it’s looking as if there are at least two phases of construction.
“We still haven’t resolved the full plan of the site, and this will be our focus for the remaining weeks of the excavation.”