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Newcastle, Anglo-Saxon Cemetery



Religious Ritual and Funerary


Inhumation Cemetery

Early Medieval


A Christian cemetery occupied part of the area of the medieval castle, lying over, and probably largely within, the Roman fort of Pons Aelius. The very few artifacts recovered suggest a date of origin circa 700 AD. Stratigraphic evidence indicates the cemetery continued in use until the construction of the stone castle began in 1168. The outline of the cemetery and number of burials it contained is unclear, since no actual boundary of the graveyard has been recognised anywhere. Between 1977 and 1992 660 burials were excavated west and north of the keep, beneath and north of the railway viaduct. While some skeletons were complete others were fragmentary, cut by later graves and disturbed by large-scale developments. The burials were particularly dense on the north side of the keep, where up to six layers could be detected. Many of the graves were just holes in the ground accommodating bodies with or without shrouds. A number of burials had been contained in wooden coffins, or in wood-lined graves, and some were in long stone cists. Slots in the subsoil suggested that a few of the earliest graves had had head markers, and possibly foot markers, of stone or wood. A few burials were covered with stone slabs, mostly plain, one heavily decorated, one ribbed and one bearing a cross in relief on a re-used millstone. In a few graves the skull had a support, cover or ear-muffs of stone. All age ranges and both sexes were represented. There is at least one instance of a Roman road being kept in repair, with graves neatly arranged along its edge until the last burial in this area was cut into the road surface. It has been suggested that a building, of which fragmentary remains survived, may have been a church, possibly rebuilt after the Conquest. It appears that the cemetery went out of use before, or possibly contemporaneously with, the construction of the stone castle in 1168-78. The parish church of St. Nicholas, to the north of the castle, may have replaced the church or chapel in the castle garth. SCHEDULED ANCIENT MONUMENT




M. Ellison & B. Harbottle, 1983, The Excavation of a 17th Century Bastion in the Castle of Newcastle, Archaeologia Aeliana, No. 5, XI 135-263 R. Goodburn, 1978, Roman Britian in 1977, Britannia, No. 9, pp. 419 L. E. Webster & J. Cherry, 1979, Medieval Britain in 1978, Medieval Arch, XXII, pp. 246 S. M. Youngs, J. Clark & T.B. Barry, 1983, Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1982, Medieval Archaeology, XXVII, pp. 206 S. M. Youngs, J. Clark & T.B. Barry, 1986, Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1986, Medieval Archaeology, XXX, pp. 170 John Nolan with Barbara Harbottle and Jenny Vaughan, 2010, The Early Medieval cemetery at the castle, Newcastle upon Tyne, Archaeologia Aeliana, Fifth Series, Vol XXXIX, pp 147-287 D.H. Heslop, 2009, Newcastle and Gateshead before AD 1080, in Diana Newton and AJ Pollard (eds), 2009, Newcastle and Gateshead before 1700, page 20-21 C.P Graves and D.H. Heslop, 2013, Newcastle upon Tyne - The Eye of the North, An Archaeological Assessment, chapter 4

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