Skeleton found near Bury St Edmunds

Nine skeletons and many other artefacts have been unearthed by archaeologists working on behalf of Anglian Water in Suffolk.

The exciting finds were made in farmland near the villages of Barnham, Bardwell, Pakenham, and Rougham near Bury St Edmunds while Anglian Water was carrying out archaeological surveys before installing a £9 million, 31km water pipeline.

The five month dig unearthed eight skeletons, believed to be of the late or post-Roman era (AD 300-500) near Barnham, two of which were buried with a brooch and knife as grave goods. A number of sixth century Anglo-Saxon ‘grub huts’ were also discovered nearby. These are believed to be cellars or under-floor spaces beneath Saxon buildings, and it’s still not fully understood how they worked.

Evidence of a number of medieval houses dating to the 12th or 13th centuries were found at Bardwell and Rougham. While, in the other villages the team found Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and medieval items, plus another Roman skeleton and four cremation pits bringing the number of burials to thirteen.

Jo Everitt, Anglian Water’s Environment and Heritage Assessor, said: “We’ve made some exciting archaeological finds here which are a fantastic reward for the careful planning that went into this project. The team has been excavating around 30 different locations along a vast pipeline route and the discoveries have been numerous, so the archaeologists have been extremely busy. In fact if you were to put all the finds together, they’d fill roughly half a shipping container.

“Because the finds are so rich and varied in date, they will make a great display. We have offered to give a talk at the local school in Bardwell so the children can learn about the history that’s right on their doorstep, and will be considering doing the same for other schools that are interested.”

Tom Phillips from Oxford East Archaeology, who managed the excavation on behalf of Anglian Water, added: “Sometimes pipeline archaeology can be frustrating, you see such a narrow slice of history when the pipeline corridor is only eight-metres wide. It's tantalising. We've been lucky here though; we've got fantastic groups of Neolithic flintwork, six Saxon buildings to learn from as we still don't fully understand how these work, a potentially very interesting cemetery, and enough medieval archaeology around the villages to actually say something about their development.

The various artefacts will now be sent to specialists in pottery, animal and human bone, flint, stone and metalwork to allow an archaeological report to be completed. Afterwards, the finds will be kept in a secure museum archive for future research as new archaeological technologies become available.

Anglian Water’s £9 million scheme will see water piped from Barnham Cross to Anglian Water’s reservoir in Little Welnetham, to secure future supplies for the growing town of Bury St. Edmunds and wider county.

The population of Bury St Edmunds is expected to rise significantly over the next 25 years, which will put pressure on existing water supplies. This pipeline is Anglian Water’s response to that demand and represents a major investment in Suffolk’s infrastructure to support its future at the heart of the regional economy.

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