Sarah Swift Building, University of Lincoln

Discovery of a previously unknown Roman cemetery to the south of Lincoln

During monitoring works for the construction of the Sarah Swift building at the University of Lincoln, we discovered a previously unknown Roman cemetery. The site lies close to the River Witham, south of the Roman city, and some 500 metres away from the junction of two of the most important roads in Roman Britain – Ermine Street which ran from London to York along the route of the current A15, and the Fosse Way which ran from Lincoln to Exeter.

The preliminary investigations uncovered the remains of two infants and the partial skeleton of an adult, who was lying in a prone position (face down). One of the infants had been carefully buried beneath a roof tile (tegula). Nearby the cremated remains of a further individual were found within an urn.

A Roman adult buried face down (prone)

A Roman adult buried face down (prone)

As a result of these findings a watching brief was no longer considered to be a suitable methodology. Therefore the project was moved to an excavation to ensure that the exhumation of human remains could be undertaken appropriately. Since the press released on 22nd June 2016 there have been further finds of human remains and other artefacts.

Until this point, there have been no indications of a cemetery in this area, and the discoveries will add considerably to our understanding of the city’s Roman history. The Romans first arrived in the area between AD50-60, and from around AD90, Lincoln (or Lindum as it was then known) became a colonia, a self-governing town for retired legionaries.

We know that Lincoln was an influential Roman city and important. Well-preserved remains survive around the town, the Newport Arch being the most obvious and impressive. Initial results suggest that the cemetery was used over an extended period of time. Previous archaeological work in the area has revealed evidence of Roman buildings dating from the 1st century onwards but until now it was thought that the area was used by the Romans for housing, so this is an exciting discovery.

Once all the archaeological work is completed the remains and related finds will be deposited at The Collection.