On Location: Durotriges Project, 2014 – Roman Burials.


Today’s On Location is featuring the Durotriges Project, an excavation in Winterborne Kingston,  Dorset, UK, which is held by Bournemouth University.

This archaeological site shows significant Iron Age and Roman settlement, particularly with the Durotriges tribe and Roman interaction. The Durotriges Project has been a yearly excavation, starting in 2009, which has uncovered many archaeological features. Over the past five years, the site has unearthed an Iron Age banjo enclosure, two Roman villas, an Iron Age burial site and numerous storage pits.

During this years excavation they were able to uncover a Bronze Age food preparation area surrounded by storage pits, and a flint mine – which was used to source the materials needed to construct the settlement’s buildings. Within the flint mine, students discovered the skeletal remains of an 18 month old juvenile.

Food Prep area DBD2014

The Bronze Age food preparation area, defined by post holes with a hearth in the centre, that was discovered during the Durotriges Project 2014. A storage pit can be seen to the right.

photo 3

The flint mine that was discovered in Trench 2. Within this flint mine, students unearthed the skeletal remains of an 18 month old juvenile.

The Durotriges Project recently hit the news this year with its discovery of five Roman burials. The burials, thought to date between 350AD to 380AD, were uncovered within a 15 by 15m  square enclosure around 100m away from the previously found Roman villa.

Roman Burials Within Enclosure

The five Roman era burials, dated between 350AD and 380AD, which were discovered within a square enclosure.

The skeletal remains found within the five graves have been identified as two males and three females. The males and two females have been aged between 40-50 years old, and the other female aged between 80-90 years old. The individuals were buried within coffins, with evidence of them being clothed as eyelets from their shoes were discovered.


One of the five Roman burials uncovered by the Durotriges Project.

It is thought that they were of “high status” as were buried with great care and with burial gifts. It is hoped that the individuals were the occupants of the nearby Roman villa, and that their discovery will help shed light about the Roman’s diet, heath and ancestry.

To learn more about Bournemouth University’s Durotriges Project’s other fascinating discoveries from the site, you can view their blog here. Follow them on Twitter, and keep up to date with them by liking their Facebook page!

With this modern day technology, can someone make a grave that would never be found?

Recap of the lecture by Paul Cheetham, Senior Lecturer and Geophysical Surveying Guru at Bournemouth University.

I found this lecture marvellous as it gave a great insight into the minds of murderers on the disposal of bodies be it a crime of passion or a calculated murder. Paul Cheetham talked about how a grave is like a time capsule capturing the personality and traits of the perpetrator. The grave can be also as important as the body; the grave could contain personal belongings of the victim as well as the criminal, some rogue hairs or blood, or contain the tools that made the murder and burial possible. I also understood the process and evolution of forensic archaeology, from the use of shovels and great man power to the new technology of geophysics and cadaver dogs. I found this to be extremely fascinating as the techniques evolved into a more archaeological practice and viable way of accessing more evidence.

So much can give a suspect away, the position of the grave, is it close to the road side with easy road access or in the middle of a field or woodlands? Is the grave in an area the suspect feels safe or familiar with? Is the grave within a 45 minute driving distance? If so this could give away a lot more than the perpetrator thinks. Our personality, skill level and habits are all visible when we create a grave. The nature of the grave also can be a clear marker, is there mixing of sub and top soil? Has the settlement of the grave filling exposed the graves indentation? Are there changes in the surrounding plants? Are they suddenly blooming or withering away? If yes to any of the above chances are that the body the murderer thought they buried safely with no possible way of spotting is soon going to be discovered by a dog walker doing their routes. Another great use of modern day technology is aerial photography which can clearly give away a grave with the different shadows and compressions of the earth and the biodiversity growing on top. From the use of this it is becoming increasingly easy to spot any unmarked graves from modern murders or medieval cemeteries.

Soon the use of these practices will help progress the use of archaeology within the criminal science spectrum and make it impossible for an unmarked grave to go unnoticed putting more criminals away.