Human cremation urn found at Roman dig near Barcombe Mills


The Culver Archaeological Project (CAP) excavations at Bridge Farm, near Barcombe Mills, unearthed a pottery vessel containing flecks of charcoal and burnt bone.

It was taken to the AOC Archaeology headquarters in Twickenham for specialist laboratory excavation by osteoarchaeologist Rachel Ives who analysed the contents.

This revealed a large quantity of burnt bone weighing 652 grams, close to the average weight of an adult cremation.

The bone was well oxidised and white in colour, indicating an efficient cremation pyre had been constructed and reached a high temperature of more than 600 degrees. The burnt bone had survived in relatively large fragments allowing identification of specific elements as from an adult human, including fragments of a left and right elbow, pieces of the wrist, vertebrae from the neck region and several tooth roots.

There was no duplication of any identified elements so it seems likely that one adult individual was cremated and the burnt remains placed in the vessel before deliberate burial at Bridge Farm.

There were six fragments of metal in the fill of the vessel, several of which seem blackened and burnt. They may represent clothing fixtures worn on the body at the time of cremation.

The actual date of the cremation has yet to be determined although its situation at the top of the Roman occupation layer on the site would seem to suggest a late or even slightly post-Roman origin as would the fact that it was located within the enclosure ditches of the settlement rather than outside as was required under Roman law.

CAP hopes that analysis of the urn by Dr Malcolm Lyne will throw more light on to the potential date of origin.