Archaeologists have found skeletons from an unknown Roman cemetery next to two Roman roads in Lincoln

By Ben Miller Published: 22 June 2016

Skeletons and a large slab of stone are puzzling archaeologists near the River Witham in Roman Lincoln

A photo of an archaeological excavation of a Roman skeleton taking place in Lincoln
No indications of a Roman cemetery had been found in the Lincoln area until an excavation at the city's university© Allen Archaeology Ltd
Two buried infants and the partial skeleton of a man came from a previously unknown cemetery near two of Britain’s most important Roman roads, say archaeologists who found the bodies metres from the banks of Lincoln’s River Witham in a shock discovery last week.

One of the children, excavated two metres below the ground during work on a new building at the University of Lincoln, had been carefully buried beneath a roof tile near the cremated remains of another individual who was buried with an urn.

The cemetery’s position, to the south of the city, would have stood 500 metres from the junction of Ermine Street, which connected London to York along the route of the current A15 during the 1st century, and the Fosse Way, which ran from Lincoln to Exeter.

A photo of an archaeological excavation of a Roman skeleton taking place in Lincoln
Previous work had revealed evidence of Roman buildings dating from the 1st century onwards, leading archaeologists to belive that the area was only used for housing© Allen Archaeology Ltd
A large slab of stone, wall structures, animal bones and sherds of Roman pottery also surfaced at the grounds off Brayford Wharf East. A military fortress was constructed in the city shortly after the first legions arrived during the mid-1st century, but the site became a self-governing town for retired legionaries, Lindum Colonia, after peace was established in around AD 90.

“It’s fair to say that it was not a find that we expected and is very interesting,” says Gavin Glover, the Project Manager for Allen Archaeology.

“What we have uncovered so far indicates that we have probably located part of a cemetery used over an extended period of time, but we can’t draw definitive conclusions at this early stage.

A photo of an archaeological excavation of a Roman skeleton taking place in Lincoln
© Allen Archaeology Ltd
“The large slab of stone is a bit of a mystery. We’re not clear on its purpose at this point.

“We know that Lincoln was an influential and important Roman city. Well-preserved remains survive around the town. There was significant Roman activity in this area, but we were not expecting to find burials.”

Carenza Lewis, an archaeologist and Professor for the Public Understanding of Research at the University of Lincoln, hopes detailed analysis will explain why the bodies were buried at the spot.

A photo of an archaeological excavation of a Roman skeleton taking place in Lincoln
© Allen Archaeology Ltd
“The tile covering suggests someone cared about this child,” she says.

“We’d expect burials alongside roads leading towards a Roman city, so these discoveries may reflect this area being outside the earliest city. To find two infants in this small assemblage is intriguing.”

The team are now searching for historical references to burials from the period and carrying out dating on the bones and artefacts. The finds will be given to local museum The Collection.

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A photo of an archaeological excavation of a Roman skeleton taking place in Lincoln
Previous work had revealed evidence of Roman buildings dating from the 1st century onwards, leading archaeologists to belive that the area was only used for housing© Allen Archaeology Ltd
Three places to find history in Lincoln

St Katherine's 900 Years of History
A vibrant new tourist destination, cultural resource and heritage and education venue for the local community, the city of Lincoln, the region and beyond. The centre is housed in a fully restored Wesleyan church building, an outstanding, Grade II-listed 19th century building that stands on the site of the Gilbertine priory of St Katherine, founded in 1148.

Tattershall Castle
This vast fortified and moated tower was built for Ralph Cromwell, Lord Treasurer of England from 1433 to 1443. The building was restored by Lord Curzon between 1911 and 1914 and contains four great chambers with enormous Gothic fireplaces, tapestries and brick vaulting.

Usher Gallery
The original Usher bequest of clocks and watches, porcelain, silver, enamels, miniatures and coins remains the core of the Usher Gallery's permanent collection, with a selection of pieces still displayed in the original cases. However, the collection has expanded and continues to grow, encompassing a wide range of Fine and Decorative Art, from Neo-Classical sculpture to contemporary portraiture and crafts.
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: