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Tyne and Wear HER(17205): Newcastle, Roman cemetery - Details

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Newcastle, Roman cemetery



Religious Ritual and Funerary


Mixed Cemetery


Conjectural Evidence

In 1865 a mixture of burnt human bone, charcoal, pottery and a Roman building stone were found in Clavering Place (White, 1865). The Northumberland County History described the bone as 'a number of human skeletons' (Spain and Simpson, 1930, 506-7). The bone may have come from the cemetery of the medieval Carmelite Friary rather than a Roman burial ground. In 1903 a sandstone coffin with a coped lid and a second coffin with a plain rough stone lid were dug up in Clavering Place. The first coffin was orientated north-south and contained a ceramic Castor Ware beaker, human bone and charcoal (Rich 1904). In 2008 two more stone sarcophagi were found on the BEMCO site (Archaeological Services Durham University, 2009). These coffins were aligned at right angles to the road through the vicus and were clearly part of a family plot. The lids would have been visible at ground level, 5m from the road. The coffins were well sculpted, but had no decoration. They were clamped shut with four steel pins sheathed in lead. Coffin one had been opened and a second inhumation placed inside. The clamp was still sealed on coffin two. Both coffins were full of water when opened. Bone survival was very poor. In coffin one there were thigh bones and fragments of teeth. In coffin 2 only a few unidentifiable fragments survived. Coffin 2 contained a finely worked Whitby jet pin, with pyramidal head. Coffin one contained an infant and juvenile female. Coffin 2 contained a female in early adulthood or late teens. The BEMCO site also produced urned cremations. Whilst the inhumations were apart from the buildings, the cremations were within the tenements. It is uncertain whether they pre-date or post-date the buildings. Burial in stone coffins was for the wealthy. The individuals at Clavering Place probably belonged to the family of the fort commander or another high-ranking official. A Roman jar or cooking pot containing a cremation and pottery was found on a burnt clay layer beneath Gunner Tower (Harbottle, 1967, 129). This is located close to the Military Way behind Hadrian's Wall, approximately 500m from the BEMCO finds. The pot dates to between the second quarter of the C2 and the early C4. Black burnt material, mostly wood, was found in depressions at Gunner Tower. This might represent a funeral pyre. At High Rochester, Brougham and Trentholm Drive in York, the ashes from funeral pyres were placed in an urn in the grave.




C.P Graves and D.H. Heslop, 2013, Newcastle upon Tyne - the Eye of the North, an archaeological assessment, pp 56-60; White, R, 1865, Roman stone found at the White Friars, Newcastle, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 2, Vol 6, p 231; Spain and Simpson, 1930, The Roman Wall from Wallsend to Rudchester Burn, p 505 in Dodds, MH (ed), Northumberland County History, Vol 13; FW Rich, 1904, Two stone coffins of the Roman period, in one of them human bones and an urn, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 2, Vol 25, 147-9; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2009, BEMCO, Clavering Place - post excavation assessment; B Harbottle, 1967, An excavation at the Gunner Tower, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1964, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 4, Vol 45, pp 123-37

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