Anglo-Saxon graves and Neolithic pits and monuments found at MOD army base where anti-tank weapons were tested

By Culture24 Reporter | 15 April 2016

The graves of men, women and children could have contained members of the same families on Salisbury Plain

A photo of an ancient workbox found at Ministry of Defence army land in Bulford
This workbox was found in the grave of a woman on Ministry of Defence land in Bulford© Wessex Archaeology
Two Neolithic monuments, prehistoric pits and an Anglo-Saxon cemetery of 150 graves containing spears, knives, jewellery and bone combs have been discovered at an army site where anti-tank weaponry was tested during World War Two.

One burial at Bulford has been radiocarbon dated to the mid Anglo-Saxon period, between AD 660 and 780. The graves have been found as part of a £1 billion Ministry of Defence development including the creation of 1,000 homes for service personnel.

A photo of an ancient bone comb found at Ministry of Defence army land in Bulford
A bone comb found in a grave© Crown Copyright / MOD2016
Archaeologists are now planning to excavate the monuments next to the cemetery, which are made up of Early Bronze Age round barrows and are likely to become scheduled monuments. Grooved ware pottery, stone and flint axes, a disc-shaped flint knife, a chalk bowl and deer and extinct wild cattle bones were found in the pits.

Andy Corcoran, of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, admits the cemetery was “completely unexpected”.

A photo of ancient horseshoes found at Ministry of Defence army land in Bulford
World War One horseshoes© Crown Copyright / MOD2016
“It’s incredibly interesting,” he says. “Early site investigation and involvement of our archaeological specialists has kept this project on track.

“Every care has been taken to ensure the archaeological remains on the site have been carefully excavated and recorded.”

A photo of imprints on ancient Ministry of Defence army land in Bulford, Wiltshire
Bulford Camp was established in 1897© Crown Copyright / MOD2016
Set on Salisbury Plain, the grounds were used for re-shoeing warhorses during World War One and training during both World Wars. Evidence suggests the PIAT anti-tank weapon, used during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, was fired at stationary armoured vehicles to test how it would work against German tanks.

“The size, location and date of this cemetery makes it of considerable research importance,” says Si Cleggett, of Wessex Archaeology.

“It contained the graves of women, men and children and was clearly the burial ground for a local community – perhaps that of Bulford’s earliest families. It included a number of re-used graves, a rare occurrence at this time, which may have held members of the same family.”

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