Essex

Colchester dig uncovers 'spearmen' skeletons

  • 18 April 2011
  • From the section Essex

The bones of two Anglo-Saxon soldiers have been discovered beneath former Army barracks in Colchester.

They may have lived and fought in the 5th or 6th Century AD, Colchester Archaeological Trust said.

The bodies had shields on their chests, spears to one side and one had a dagger in a belt around his waist.

The skeletons were found beneath Hyderbad and Meanee Barracks, once home to 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment, which are being redeveloped as housing.

"There is a strong probability these were post Roman 'spearmen', with Germanic or Saxon origin," said Trust director Philip Crummy.

'Local militia'

"But there is a tantalising possibility they were 4th or early 5th Century, in which case they could have been part of a militia living here in Roman times."

Achaeologists have already found Anglo-Saxon burials south of the nearby site of a former Roman circus.

These were from the 4th Century and featured small ring-shaped ditches with a single burial inside.

The latest discoveries also featured ring ditches, suggesting the spearmen may have been descended from that group.

"Many men from the continent were hired by the Romans and posted at frontier towns and cities like Colchester to act as soldiers," said Mr Crummy.

"Some then turned on their masters and paved the way for the conquest of much of eastern Britain by their own kind."

Colchester Archaeological Trust has been working at the Hyderbad site since 2002, on behalf of developer Taylor Wimpey.

The highlight of its excavation was the 2005 discovery of a Roman chariot circus in the gardens of the sergeants' mess.

It will carry out more work including DNA tests later this year in an attempt to discover exactly when the newly-discovered warriors lived.

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