Leicester Archaeologists find 5000-year-old Human Remains
By Corinne Field 01/04/2004
Bones of a man and woman dating back to 3000BC have been found in a gravel pit in Leicestershire. The extraordinary find, including a skull, vertebrae and long bones, are the earliest human remains ever found in the county... continues...
An earthwork site once interpreted as being a Roman Legionary fortress; though now thought to be a probable Iron Age hillfort. Late Bronze Age and Iron Age pottery and a Roman pottery sherds have been found here. The site was later incorporated into Brough/ Burgh Medieval Deer Park and may have indeed given the park its name.
(SK 498058) Bury Camp (NR) (1)
A rectangular camp of single vallum & fosse, known as "Ratby Burrow" or "Bury" Camp: occupies an area of over nine acres.
Rampart 3ft high on north side with escarpment of 38ft into a ditch with 9ft counterscarp. "At the NE & SW angles the vallum rises to a greater height and at the former is a fragment of a slightly raised circular platform". Four of the gaps "are in each side, are no doubt entrances: so apparently are two other openings near the eastern angles, that at the northern looked down upon by the aforesaid platform, and that on the south defended by a rise in the vallum to 8 ft perpendicular measurement. At point 'C' on plan (2) is a modern opening". Gould suggests that the earthwork is pre-Roman. (2-4)
Possible site of the early legionary camp in the neighbourhood of Leicester. "It may be suggested that the earthworks at Ratby, of which a plan made by Throsby in 1791 is reproduced on p 4, may be the actual site. The position is a commanding one on the hills three miles west of Leicester. The shape of the camp certainly suggests a Roman rather than an earlier or later origin, while a small sherd of Roman mortarium was picked up in a rabbit scrape in 1938. Excavation is obviously necessary to prove this suggestion". (5)
"The Treasure was found in an Iron Age shrine dating from around 50 BC through to the Roman invasion of AD 43. Archaeologists believe that the site is a type of open air shrine that is the first of its kind to have been discovered in the UK. It was located on a hilltop and was probably enclosed by a ditch with a palisade to one side.
No building was discovered inside the enclosure and archaeologists believe that people were worshipping some natural feature – trees, stones or perhaps even wooden idols.
The shrine was witness to a lot of activity from the turn of the 1st century AD until the time of the Roman invasion. Worshippers were burying their riches, feasting and sacrificing.
Watch a slide show to see what was happening over the years of The Hallaton Shrine" at Leicestershire County Council's website.
In CA 233 we reported on the discovery at Hallaton, in Leicestershire, of a rare Roman cavalry parade helmet. It was just one of a number of items of treasure found at a pre-Roman shrine that continues to excite debate. Frank Hargrave, Project Officer at the Harborough Museum describes the other finds."
The treasure includes more than 5,000 silver and gold coins.
Experts estimate that most of the coins date from about 50 BC to slightly beyond the Roman conquest. However, there are over 300 Roman coins which date to later activity at the site, right up to the 4th century AD.
The Treasure also includes the oldest Roman coin ever found in Britain.
"Archaeologists have pieced together the remains of a 2,000-year-old guard dog whose spirit is believed to have protected a hoard of treasure. The skeleton, which is about the same size as that of a retriever or Alsatian, was discovered in a pit at the site of an Iron Age shrine in Hallaton, near Market Harborough.
The hoard was discovered a decade ago and is now housed in a gallery at Harborough Museum.
The dog's skeleton, which was pieced together by experts from the University of Leicester's archaeological services, will go on show at the museum for the first time on Saturday."
Ancient Leicestershire hillfort to reveal ancient secrets
An ancient Leicestershire hillfort will reveal some of its historic secrets over the next month, as archaeologists from the University of Leicester welcome the public to visit the second season of major excavation of the site.
Situated on the Jurassic scarp with commanding views of the surrounding countryside, Burrough Hill near Melton Mowbray is one of the most striking and frequently visited prehistoric monuments in central Britain.
Despite the site's importance, relatively little is known about its ancient past. Last year a team from the University of Leicester began a five-year survey and excavation of the site, with support from landowners the Ernest Cook Trust (a national educational charity), English Heritage and Leicestershire County Council.
Trenches dug within the fort last summer revealed part of its stone defences, along with a cobbled road, a massive timber gateway and a 'guard' chamber built into the entrance rampart. This room remarkably still had surviving Iron Age floors, complete with its hearths an incredibly rare find (www.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology).
The most surprising discovery so far is evidence of a further large Iron Age settlement just outside the hillfort that was discovered by geophysical survey, suggesting that the hillfort community may have been even larger than thought.
This year the team is revisiting the massive eastern entrance to expose the remainder of the chamber and reveal clues as to what it was used for. Another area will target several roundhouses in the settlement outside in order to find out when and why so many people lived here.
The excavations will take place between 13th June and 15th July and will aim to add to results from a successful first season of excavation in 2010.
A public open day on Sunday June 26th (11am to 4pm) will include guided tours of the excavations and a display of archaeological finds, as well as a chance to meet an 'Iron Age warrior' and learn about life in a roundhouse. Many of these activities are funded by the Southeast Leicestershire Treasure Project which has made another wonderful Leicestershire Iron Age find, the Hallaton Treasure, available to the public. A guided walk around the hill fort will also be held at the end of the dig on Monday 18th July as part of the national Festival of Archaeology.
The University of Leicester is also organising a summer school for local pupils. Funding from Aimhigher in the East Midlands will enable 16 year 11 pupils from backgrounds under-represented in higher education to benefit from a residential experience, including working on the dig at Burrough Hill and skills development work with the Department of Archaeology.
Funding from the Ernest Cook Trust (www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk) has enabled the University to employ an outreach worker and create resource packs for schools, making the most of the site's education potential.
Byron Rhodes, Leicestershire County Council's Cabinet Member for Country Parks said:
"Burrough Hill Country Park is one of the most striking and historic features in the landscape of eastern Leicestershire. The well-preserved Iron Age hill fort dramatically crowns a steep-sided promontory of land with superb views. A prominent landmark and ready-made arena, the hill has long been a place for public recreation.
"I am delighted that the County Council is working in partnership with the University to delve deep into the parks history and I'm looking forward to seeing what further discoveries are made. The open day will provide the opportunity to showcase some of the amazing finds for the very first time and I would urge people to come along."
Dr Patrick Clay, Co-director of University of Leicester Archaeological Services added:
'This is a great opportunity to examine the development of this remarkable monument. Our understanding of Iron Age sites has increased enormously in the last 20 years but this has mainly been through examining lowland farmsteads and a few larger settlements. This work will help our understanding of the role of 'hillforts' and their relationship with the smaller surrounding settlements'.
It seems a village schoolmaster got himself lost in the snow on the hill fort in the nineteenth century.He was thought dead when his violin was discovered two days later, but was subsequently found alive. So that's alright then!
I think this a super site. It's in a really pretty part of Leicestershire, there is a little car park for those (like me) who don't always want to drag family members across miles of trackless moor, and it's only a short walk to the fort itself.It has an obvious entrance where a guard house was situated. The ramparts are high all round and the hill at the back of the fort is really steep and high.I know, I walked up it and it took about twenty minutes to get my breath back. The view over rural Leicestershire is very dramatic, but visit early or late if you want atmosphere, there seem to be quite a few visitors and people flying kites or model aeroplanes!