Skeleton

You’re sure to see a few skeletons walking about this Hallowe’en as trick or treaters take to the streets. But when Anglian Water is digging holes to lay and repair pipes, its staff often come across the real thing.

There are tens of thousands of miles of pipes buried underground across East Anglia – some up to seven metres deep. It’s not unusual to stumble across a historical burial ground and we have to take great care to ensure any finds are properly cared for and recorded by archaeologists.

Before we laid a £9million 31km pipeline near Bury St Edmunds recently we carried out a full archaeological survey. During a five month dig a total of eight skeletons were uncovered, believed to date back to the late or post-Roman era (AD 300-500) near the village of Barnham. Two of them were buried with a brooch and knife which may have been deliberately placed in their grave as part of the burial ritual. A number of sixth century Anglo-Saxon huts were also discovered nearby so these may have been where they lived. During the same dig another Roman skeleton was found and also four cremation pits.

On another job in Huntingdon recently our engineers got more than they bargained for when looking for a leaking water pipe. They first found parts of a skull and called in an archaeologist straight away. More bones were uncovered and after analysis we believe they are likely to have been buried around 600 years ago when the land was part of a church burial ground. The leaky pipe was fixed and the skeleton was reburied.

One skeleton that was not reburied is now on display if you visit the visit our visitors centre at our Rutland Water Park. There you can see the 1,500 year old remains of a woman, believed to be aged around 20. She was one of around 130 skeletons which were found in an Anglo Saxon graveyard uncovered when we created a car park at the site.

Jo Everitt, Anglian Water’s heritage expert, said: “Hallowe’en is the traditional time of year to see youngsters dressing up as skeletons, but we never know when we’re going to find them.

“When our staff are digging to find or lay pipes we are often turning over earth that has not been touched for hundreds, or thousands of years. People have been living and dying in East Anglia for a long time, so it’s no wonder that there are so many bones under our feet.

“It can be a shock at first when our engineers find part of a skull or a leg bone – but we make sure they always call in a trained archaeologist to ensure the find is recorded and looked after. Often they are reburied so the body can lay at rest – but the location is recorded so we don’t disturb them when we come to fix a pipe in future.”