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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Ritual Burials at Reculver.
by Brian Philp.
(Reculver Excavation Group.)

The major excavation at Reculver for 1966 ended on 8th September with the dramatic discovery of the skeletons of three more babies buried in the foundations of a substantial building on the west side of the Roman fort. Two quite random cuts were made through the walls of this building to examine its construction when the burials were discovered. Each infant had been no more than a few months old when buried. The total of infant burials from the site now stands at eleven, six of which were certainly ritual foundation-burials of Roman date.

Of the other five one at least was buried in post-Medieval times. Within ten feet of one of the skeletons just found was a small baby's feeding-bottle which had been placed on its side in the floor of the building, but it cannot with certainty be associated with the burials.

The building examined, west of the Principia and in the central division of the fort, was typical of those buildings erected inside the fort during the third century. These mostly had clay-bonded footings which supported heavy timber frames. The building was found to contain ten small domestic ovens and a number of fragments of corn-grinding stones and it seems likely that at one time it had been used as a bakehouse.

To the west of this building was the perimeter Intervallum road and the tail of the rampart-bank. A number of large blocks had been later laid over part of the Intervallum road adjacent to the building and may have formed the base for a verandah as found elsewhere inside the fort.

The large amount of domestic rubbish from the site included Samian, Rhemish, New Forest and Castor wares and meat-bones of red-deer, sheep, pigs, cows and horses. A total of 47 coins was discovered and this brings the total from the site to nearly 500. Most were radiates of the late-third century or fourth century coins, but seven late second-century coins were recovered.

On another site, east of St Mary's church, a large area of prefort levels was examined in detail. There five small ditches of Iron Age date were found and a large collection of early Iron Age pottery recovered.

Some 85 diggers took part in the three-week excavation, including members of other Kent research groups. Some 20 new diggers who were given basic training in methods and techniques also took part and training is to form an important part of future work at Reculver. The evening lectures and slide-shows proved popular and several thousand visitors were shown over the excavations. Considerable thanks are due to Gerald Cramp, Ray Casement and David Bartlett for supervising the work; to John Swale for his work in the drawing-office and to Mrs Roberts for her help in the research-centre.

Work, in co-operation with the Ministry of Works, will continue during March, June and August 1967.

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