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Excavating the burial at Kelshall

Excavating the burial at Kelshall in November 2014

Unusual archaeological finds dating back to AD 200 have been discovered in a field near Royston. The artefacts, which form part of a burial, probably of a wealthy and cosmopolitan individual, are a unique find in Britain and experts in ancient finds are already clamouring to study these rare objects.

Discovered late last year by a local metal detectorist in a field in Kelshall, a complete Roman jug was the first thing to be found. A bronze dish, a larger jug and then a third jug were soon uncovered. Realising this was an important find it was reported and Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, North Hertfordshire District Council’s (NHDC) Archaeology and Outreach Officer, decided that it would be a good idea to investigate further.

Bronze jug

Bronze jug with decorated handle

Once the dig was underway, glass bottles, an iron lamp and wall mounting bracket, two layers of hobnails from a pair of shoes and a box with bronze corner bindings were uncovered. Two shattered, but otherwise complete, mosaic glass dishes stood on top of a decayed wooden box which held two broken clear glass cups and a pair of blue glass handles. The largest glass bottle was hexagonal, and contained cremated bone and a worn bronze coin dating from AD 174-5. A rare octagonal bottle stood next to it. A major find was mosaic glass dishes likely made in Alexandria, Egypt, around AD 200

Millefiori dish

Glass millefiori dish, made in Alexandria

Currently owned by the farmer and the finder, the North Hertfordshire Museum Service hopes to raise the money to buy the finds, so they can be displayed when the new museum opens later in the year.

After 1800 years, finds like these still impress us with their workmanship. Working together with the metal detectorist, NHDC’s archaeologist and the Finds Liaison Officer, were able to uncover the past and find out and understand so much more about the lives of people in Roman North Herts.

The butt (handle) end of a polished stone axe from the centre of the henge

The butt (handle) end of a polished stone axe from the centre of the henge

Today, the online magazine Heritage Daily has published a short summary of the work on site that also puts the henge into is local setting. Now that the work on site has finished, Norton Community Archaeology Group has the task of processing the more than 13,000 individually numbered objects that have been excavated since 2010, a huge task. This work on the finds from a site, which is known as post-excavation work, is usually more time consuming than the original fieldwork and demands the involvement of numerous specialists (in this case, a prehistoric pottery expert, a flint specialist, an animal bone expert and a human bone specialist: and that is just to deal with the Neolithic/Early Bronze Age aspects of the site).

As work progresses on the finds, we will no doubt learn lots more interesting facts about this unusual (perhaps even unique!) site. We will keep people informed through both this blog and the Norton Community Archaeology Group’s blog.

This year’s summer excavation by the Norton Community Archaeology Group is coming to an end, so today the museum team went to see what they have found.

museum team tour of archaeological site

Archaeology Officer Keith gives the Museum Team the guided tour


Keith points out pit on archaeological site

Archaeological Officer Keith points out a pit

It is a very interesting site, which Keith really brings to life. I would encourage those of you who are able to go along to the Open Day tomorrow and have a look for yourself. If you can’t visit, Keith and other members of  the Norton Group have been keeping a blog detailing the progress each day, and posting pictures of some of the finds.