Archaeologists 'stunned' at discovery of Roman settlement
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The discovery was made on a site where new homes are being built in the Kent town of Deal. Believed to be one of the most important finds in the district of Dover for decades, the cemetery includes the bodies of some of the first English speakers. Among the buried include a child as well as a warrior, believed to have been killed in battle, alongside his horse and dog.
Whitstable-based Kent Archaeological Projects (KAP) made the discovery of the remains of men, women and children at the St Richard’s Road building site.
Tim Allen is the director of KAP, he and his team undertake many different projects, “usually in response to archaeological specifications issued by local authorities as conditions of planning consent”, according to the company website.
He told KentOnline: “I’ve been an archaeologist in Kent for 36 years and this is the most important find I personally have ever made.
“The Jutes were the first English-speaking people: they spoke Old English, Anglo-Saxon.
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“This is the origin of England, right here.”
The Jutes were a Nordic tribe who settled in the UK after the departure of the Romans.
They are believed to have come from the Jutland Peninsula, a part of Northern Europe that combines the modern Denmark mainland and a section of northern Germany.
They invaded and settled in Britain during the late 4th century, landing just outside Ramsgate, and populated Kent, the Isle of Wight and Hampshire.
The Jutes, alongside the Angles and the Saxons, spoke a number of different dialects, which would eventually develop into what would later be called Anglo-Saxon, or more commonly Old English.
This replaced the Celtic language spoken by Ancient Britons before them.
Two groups of people are laid to rest in the cemetery, the Jutes and those from the late Neolithic to early Bronze Era.
The dead found in the cemetery is thought to be originally for the people in the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age era, approximately 4,000 years ago.
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One of the bodies found is thought to be of a boy aged only 12.
His cause of death is unknown, but an examination of his teeth allowed a rough estimate of his age.
Given that Mr Allen’s team also uncovered a ditch from 2000 BC, it is thought this was used to mark the original burial ground at the site.
The Jutes seemingly discovered the initial cemetery and adopted it as their own.
The style of graves in the site are very different. Bronze Age graves appear oval, with the dead placed in crouched positions on their sides, while Jutes were laid on their backs in rectangular graves.
Two graves in the cemetery appear side by side, one exceptionally large for a horse and the other a large, wolf-sized dog, according to KentOnline.
Their owner’s body, a Jutish warrior, sits in the next grave along.
His skull was found crushed, suggesting he was killed in battle.
KAP believes his animals suffered the same fate.
Mr Allen told the publication: “He was a very high status nobleman.
“He seemed to have died in battle because his shield was placed over his face, which had been very badly crushed in so we’re assuming that was the cause of death.
“He was buried with his sword, a spear, two knives. The sword was highly decorated, it had semi-precious stone in the hilt. This was quite clearly a high status burial.”
Most skeletons have now been removed from the site, which KAP hopes will eventually end up in nearby Dover Museum.
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