7:40am Friday 17th September 2010
Exclusive By Julia Kennard
Ancient Roman remains of buried babies and animals have been unearthed on the site of a new school.
Skeletons dating back 3,000 years were dug up by archaeologists at Stanley Park High School, which is currently undergoing a £38m redevelopment.
Experts also found prehistoric pottery in pits and ditches providing evidence of early Iron Age settlements at the site of the former Queen Mary’s Hospital.
The discovery lies less than 100m to the north-west of one of the largest late Bronze Age hilltop enclosures in south-east England, found during the construction of the hospital in the early 20th century.
The latest excavations found Romano-British enclosures and numerous pits, many containing multiple animal burials including sheep, a pig, a horse, a goat and dogs.
Archaeologists – who also found Iron Age features including a possible droveway, shallow gullies and what looks to be a spearhead – now believe the area was once a small farming community with typical earth and timber roundhouses with thatched roofs.
Councillor Graham Tope said: “We are very excited to find such important examples of early life in the borough – we think this is a great area to live and clearly our ancient ancestors would have agreed.
“Before construction started at the old hospital site analysis revealed a small quantity of prehistoric pottery in pits and ditches but the full historic significance of this area wasn’t uncovered until digging for the foundations started.
“We are keen to learn more about the artefacts and stories behind them after they have been fully analysed – it will really help to bring ancient history to life for children when they attend their new school.”
Lord Tope said building work for the school, which has been the subject of a series of delays while the council negotiated access rights over neighbouring land, has continued while the excavations are carried out He said the discovery has set back work on some areas of the foundations by a few weeks but the council hoped to make it up in the coming months, weather permitting.
The final cost would depend on whether or not this is possible.
Lord Tope said: “While we do need to cover the costs of the archaeological dig it was the responsible thing to do in the situation – we have an obligation to local people and national history to protect such an important historical discovery.”
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