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Remains found at school confirmed to be Roman

Hobnails found at Overbury School Published Friday, 31st October 2014

Worcestershire County Council Archives and Archaeology Service has confirmed that remains found at a school in Overbury are from Roman times.

Two incomplete adult skeletons were found, one an adult female and a younger adult male, during building works at Overbury Primary School in February this year.

The adult female, aged over 50, was found with hobnails, which are associated with rural Roman agricultural burials.

The other was an adult male, aged 25-30 who had signs of degenerative joints and osteoarthritis. Also found were a selection of Roman pots.

Archaeologist Tom Vaughan said: "The remains have been thoroughly examined and found to be from the Roman era. The excavations, including the finds of hobnails with the adult female are typical of Roman internments in the area and similar to recent excavations near Wyre Piddle and St John's, Worcester. It is well known that there was Roman occupation around Bredon Hill."

He said that hobnails are characteristic of Roman burials and may be associated with a physically demanding agricultural lifestyle.

Recent research suggests that females played an important role in Roman agriculture on the continent. Female labourers were likely to have been employed in work on farmsteads, such as preparing food, manufacturing cloth and even general labour.

Mr Vaughan added: "This discovery seems to support evidence that during Roman times there were small farmsteads in Worcestershire, owned or run by a family.

"The recovery and analysis of the remains has provided important information which has contributed to the growing archaeological evidence for the nature of dispersed burial practices during the Roman period in rural Worcestershire."

Cllr Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member for Localism and Communities, said: "These are very interesting finds and show the importance of carrying out digs like this in order to discover more about our history."

The adult male appears to have been a 'decapitation burial', where the individual had their head removed post-mortem (after death) and placed alongside the legs. It is unknown why this ritual was undertaken, but it was not uncommon in the Roman period. The burials were found in association with features relating to small scale agricultural activity and there are cropmarks of a possible trackway and enclosures in the vicinity.

The pottery spanned the Late Iron Age (before the Roman invasion) and through the Roman period, and included some which were produced in the Malvern area; all were typical domestic wares for the period.