Thursday, 13 January 2011

Southampton archaeology

Out tonight at a seminar given by a member of Southampton City Council's archaeology department. The topic was deaths, mysterious and otherwise, at a friary site that they've been excavating. They basically only get to excavate whenever some building work is planned (even minor items like paths or ramps), so have been gradually piecing together evidence from the site for quite a few years. And while they've also been studying the history of the site itself, tonight was mainly about several bodies from the 15th century that they've uncovered, and it gave a bit of an insight into the sleuthing they do to work out the who's and whys.

The main find that was discussed was a communal grave in which five bodies were found. They were unusual in that they'd been buried fully clothed (normally clothing was too valuable to be ditched this way), they were all men at least 25 years or older, they appear to have been buried rather haphazardly, but there was no sign of them having been executed. While the speaker had come across a similar sort of burial on one of his very first excavations in (I think) Guildford, none of the evidence he'd uncovered gave any definitive answers. So it made for a good mystery, and spawned quite a few questions at the end.

Aside from it being a nice change for an evening, and genuinely interesting, the thing that most struck me again was how brutal and short life was in the past. While the mysterious bodies had evidence of various minor injuries, the talk included discussion of some other skeletons, including that of a child, with much more serious problems. So while the the aim of the evening was to interest the audience in the past, it largely just reminded me that I should be pretty bloody grateful to be alive now.

No comments: