Ancient Burial Site Uncovered On Weymouth's Olympic Relief Road

By Ed Sexton | 07 January 2009
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photo of archaeologists at work in a field

Roman burial inserted into earlier round barrow monument. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

Archaeologists have uncovered more than a dozen skeletons at an ancient burial site near Weymouth in Dorset.

A total of three sites are planned for excavation along the route of the Weymouth relief road that will provide access to the Olympic sailing centre for the 2012 games.

The dig is being lead by experts from the Oxford Archaeology and we spoke to archaeologist David Score to find out more about the first site that the team finished digging just before Christmas.

“Because of its location as a place of ritual the area has attracted burials from many different periods. The Bronze Age round barrows would still have been visible to the Romans and there is a focus of burials surrounding the barrow,” he said.

“This is a classic type of location near a road on top of the ridge. The size of the excavation is large and this is a rare opportunity to excavate a ritual landscape. This is not the sort of area that normally comes up for development – this is like digging near Stonehenge.”

He added: “We could see a few mounds that are preserved and that gives you a hint of what’s underneath and when you strip the top soil back you can see all the things that have disappeared over time.”

photo of an archaeologist working on a skeleton

Excavating a Bronze Age 'beaker' burial. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

The first dig has resulted in a variety of finds including human remains dating back to the Neolithic period, 4000-2400BC.

One of the star finds was a Bronze Age round barrow that originally would have been a circular mound surrounded by a ditch. In the centre of the barrow archaeologists uncovered a single cremation burial and a dagger.

The team also discovered five large chalk pits from the Roman period as well as a railway building and filled in tunnel shaft from the 1800s.

David explained what will happen to all of the finds and what the plans are for the next two excavations along the relief road route.

He said: “We take everything back to Oxford where we wash it, clean it and label it and our specialists examine the finds and look at the relationship between the different finds.

“The hope is that the finds will go to the Dorchester Museum when they have been studied – we always try and return the finds to the nearest museum.

The excavation is set to continue at two further sites along the route of the road this year. The route of the road has been carefully looked at and some key sites along the route have been identified to be looked at further.

“The next site is further along the Ridgeway towards Weymouth where there was quite a lot of quarrying activity and has been identified as post medieval," added David.

“The third site is where the road crosses quite close to a known settlement where there was Roman activity.”

photo of a skeleton discovered on the dig

Bronze Age round barrow under excavation. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

He added: “There will also be an archaeologist on hand when the road route is stripped in case anything is found along the route and we will be able to record or deal with anything that comes up.

“They could find anything along the route and I would be surprised if one or two new finds are not unearthed when the soil is stripped back.”

For more information on the Weymouth Relief Road excavation go to www.dorsetforyou.com/weymouthreliefroad

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