Relics 'most important find in area for 100 years'
NORTH Somerset's most important archaeological finds for 100 years have been unearthed in Banwell during work to replace a water main.
The relics were discovered during work by Bristol Water to lay a new £3.6 million, seven kilometre water main between Banwell and Hutton.
As part of the project, Bristol Water employed archaeologists to investigate and record any potential remains near its planned works.
Experts from Border Archaeology have now unearthed what appears to be a Roman cemetery containing several human burials, isolated from the surrounding landscape by a curving water-filled ditch.
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A partially preserved wooden coffin or shallow 'bier' constructed from timber planking containing human remains was also discovered.
Generally, Roman cemeteries were situated outside settlements and away from areas of human habitation, often next to roads.
Experts believe the cemetery is not associated with a town but with a villa site and believe it could have been a private burial ground serving a wealthy landowner and his immediate family. Several copper alloy brooches and a pin dating back to Roman times have also been found along with thousands of pieces of pottery.
Other finds include a coin dating back to the mid-fourth century – from the reign of Constantine the Great – as well as a Roman spoon, a bronze bracelet and a bone writing stylus intended for use on wax writing tablets.
Remains of buildings believed to date back to Roman times have also been discovered during the excavation.
Bristol Water spokesman Jeremy Williams said: "We are told the finds rewrite the known interpretation of Roman Banwell and are of regional significance. The excavation has been described as potentially the most important for 100 years in North Somerset."
All of the discoveries, including 9,000 pieces of pottery, are being carefully photographed, documented and preserved.
Mr Williams added: "Full information about them is being shared with the landowners, local residents, archaeological groups and the relevant authorities. The archaeologists are very excited about their finds, which they have made despite bad weather turning the area into a sea of mud at times."
Many of the finds will be on show at a special event hosted by Banwell Society of Archaeology at Banwell Village Hall on November 19 at 7.30pm where experts from Border Archaeology will give a presentation.