University of York Archaeology students have unearthed a rare Bronze Age cremation urn during excavations on the University’s Heslington East campus.
The collared urn containing a cremation burial, together with a further cremation without a pot, was found by students from the Department of Archaeology on the Heslington East expansion in May.
This rare find, which dates back around 4,000 years, was found when the roundabout at Heslington East was being built.
It was lifted complete by specialist conservators from York Archaeological Trust.
York Student archaeologist Nick Hall told The Yorker that the urn had to be covered in plaster of Paris to prevent it from disintegrating.
The cremation was then excavated from within the pot by Malin Holst, of York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, at the University’s archaeology laboratory at King’s Manor.
Malin Holst, who is also a teaching fellow at the University of York, concluded that some of the fragments of bone which had survived the cremation process belonged to an infant, but full analysis of the pot and cremation is continuing.
Dr Cath Neal, from the University’s Department of Archaeology, said: “This is a very exciting and unexpected find as most of the features in the area investigated this year are from the Roman period, including evidence for timber buildings, hearths, furnaces and trackways.”
Dr Neal told The Yorker: “I am still working with/teaching the students and gearing up for another month’s excavation.”
“The pot and its contents will be analysed by specialists in due course.”
Archaeological work on the Heslington East site has been carried out by commercial archaeologists and the Department of Archaeology at the University of York since 2007, with the aim of “improving our knowledge and understanding of the areas around Heslington, Badger Hill and Grimston.”
Excavations will finish this year and the most exciting find to date is the remains of an Iron Age skull and brain found in 2008.
Brain material was still in the skull, surmised to be that of a man who had been ritually hung and then decapitated, and dates back around 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest surviving brains in Europe.
For more information on the excavations at the Heslington East campus, visit the archaeology project website.