The excavation at the Hans Price Building
Members of Weston Archaeology Society met outside Weston College's Knightstone Campus on a bright Wednesday morning in September, to be given a tour of the excavation at the rear of the Hans Price building, by Avon Archaeological Unit Director Andrew Young; the visit was arranged by Vince Russett, North Somerset County Archaeologist.
Andrew said the Unit had been called in by the College authorities because an excavation/survey was needed before planning permission could be granted for an extension to the Hans Price building. The team had had 6 weeks of dry weather to dig down to the water table and the work was ending that weekend. A full report will be published in 2 years time.
An amateur archaeologist, Sergeant George Rodgers, in 1964, had found Roman remains during the construction of a drainage pit, and Andrew was able to confirm that they had also uncovered a Roman structure which they believe was a 2nd to 4th century building, possible of Roman origin. Within the walls and clay floors were found pottery, coins, shellfish, metal objects and animal bone but intriguingly no fish bones.
The house was surrounded by sand dunes of which one was shown uncovered, and it may have been sited by a source of fresh water, such as a stream. The presence of large limestone boulders, which must have been brought to the site, could have formed a windbreak for the dwelling.This building could be good evidence of the first Roman dwelling in Weston, as the surrounding area would have had clear advantages for a Roman settlement; surrounded with a rich agricultural soil after draining the local marshes, and Weston Bay providing a good place for net fishing. An unusual discovery was a complete skeleton lying on it's side in a crouched position. Andrew passed around the group a photograph which showed where the remains were positioned, at a shallow depth and close to the side road; live water and gas pipes over the body made excavation difficult. The bones have been sent away for analysis to determine it's sex and age, and a report is expected back in a few months. Speculation was that it was a Pagan burial. Further digging was not undertaken due to the water table covering the prehistoric layers. The various finds are the property of the college and it is hoped they will be donated to North Somerset Museum in due course and put on display.
After a question and answer session with Andrew, photographs were taken by the members and our thanks were given to him for a memorable morning.
Additional Report by Alex Ross, reporter for the Weston Mercury:
Starved, diseased and suffering the effects of hard labour - a Roman skeleton has revealed the difficult life faced by residents in Weston 2,000 years ago. Forensic archaeologists believe the skeleton found in a dig at Weston College's Knightstone campus belonged to a slender man aged between 36 and 45.
Tests reveal corroded spinal and hip joints and inflamed shins which experts believe point to a tough life of hard labour.
Dr Malin Holst of York osteoarchaeology , said "The individual experienced several periods of growth cessation as a result of undernourishment or illness during early childhood. Findings also confirmed that the individual also suffered from ill health during later adulthood. The skeleton showed evidence of a wide range of diseases and pathological conditions, some of which are rarely observed in archaeological skeletons."
Other illnesses identified were gallstones, chronic sinusitis and dental decay.
In addition to the skeleton, archaeologists from Avon Archaeological Unit also found third century Romano-British-style pottery, including pots made in Oxford and tableware thought to be imported from France.
Other discoveries, including coins, metal work, animal bone and shellfish, are still being examined by the archaeology team.
The six-week excavation also unearthed walls and clay floors, thought to have formed a dwelling. The site was close to an inlet or creek from the shoreline, which could have been used as a marina for fishing boats.
The find last August was the first to uncover clear evidence of a Roman settlement in Weston. It was undertaken on behalf of Weston College as part of planning permission conditions to extend the existing Hans Price building.
Further analysis is expected to reveal more about the Roman Settlement with a full publication of the results expected in 2011.