Although we finished digging in December 2013 work is far from finished on our project at Horse and Groom Inn in the Cotswolds. Over the past few months a team of specialists have been looking in detail at all the artefacts, animal and human bone and environmental samples from the site, and writing detailed assessment reports on them. Over at Urban Archaeology we have also been busy checking and collating records, digitising site plans, briefing the specialists and creating a database and GIS of all the site data. We have also been writing a detailed account of what we found at the site, a framework into which the specialist data will be slotted later. This document, known as a post-excavation assessment (PXA) is an important milestone in the site's progress, a point where we stop and assess what we found on site, look at its potential and its significance, and decide what further work is required to analyse and publish the site findings.
The PXA is not a complete and final report: once it is approved by the local planning archaeologist work will start on the analysis phase and the preparation of the final publication text, which will be published in an academic journal. Meantime we have now received all the specialist reports and we thought we would give an update on some of our findings.
One of the finds on site that captured the most attention was the discovery of an adult human skeleton that probably dates from the Middle Iron Age. What we didn't say at the time was that there was a further burial alongside the adult skeleton, and that we had recovered other probable human remains from the site.
We have now received the detailed osteological report on the human remains, and it turns out that there were the remains of five individuals buried on the site: the adult crouched burial, a baby buried within the backfill of his burial, and three other fragmentary baby skeletons or parts of skeletons.
We identified the crouched burial as probably dating from the Middle Iron Age as the grave backfill contained large, conjoining, sherds of a Middle Iron Age jar that may have been deliberately thrown into the grave. It is possible that this pottery is residual and the burial is later than the Middle Iron Age -there are instances of similar Roman crouched burials from the area- however there was no Roman pottery in the grave and no other Middle Iron Age features nearby that could have provided such large pieces of Middle Iron Age pottery. We will be using Carbon Dating to establish the date of the burial.
The first skeleton is also the most complete as he had been buried in a crouched position within a small pit cut down into the natural limestone bedrock. On site we identified the skeleton as being of an adult male (and luckily osteologist Gaynor Western agrees!) The skeleton is a of a male who probably died aged between 25 and 40 and who stood 1.76m tall (5 foot 9) (slightly taller than the known average for Iron Age males). Detailed inspection of the skeleton showed that he had slight congenital or developmental abnormalities on his spine and ribs, but nothing that would have affected him adversely during his life. There were no signs of any diseases, injuries or other trauma on his bones, and his teeth were in good condition.
The other skeletons were all fragmentary, and all were from new born or very young babies. Their bones were very fragile and we can tell less about these individuals. The dating of the other three babies is uncertain, they were all recovered from contexts dated to the medieval period, but all may be significantly older. It is not inconceivable that the burials may date from the Iron Age or Roman period given their proximity to the concentration of Iron Age and Roman activity on the site.