Heslington East Community Archaeology Project

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Death & Burial

During the course of the work different types of human remains have been discovered unexpectedly. The earliest of these was a Bronze Age collared urn which contained the burnt bone from a cremation – this was found by a digger driver as the roundabout at Heslington East was being built! A human skull, containing brain tissue, has been dated to the Iron Age and has been the subject of much media interest from around the world. The man had been ritually murdered by being hung and then decapitated. The brain material survived because the skull plunged immediately into the water in the springhead. A team of specialists led by Dr Sonia O’Connor (Bradford University) is studying the cranium and brain currently.

From the Roman period we had three inhumation burials, one lying informally on his side near to the large masonry building and two others, male and female, lying formally in a ditch to the north of the site. A Roman cremation urn was found to the west of the site.

Overall there are a range of burial practices from different time periods on the site, showing how things changed over time and also causing us to wonder what some of the variation represents, differences in practice generally or relating to the role/status of the individual.