Archaeologists discover medieval church and 300 burials in Ipswich

A team from Oxford Archaeology, in partnership with Pre-Construct Archaeology, has so far uncovered some 300 burials dating to the late Saxon and medieval periods from a site in Ipswich.

Ipswich was an important Saxon town and trading centre, and excavation at the site, located by the river on Great Whip Street, Stoke Quay, has revealed extensive Middle-Late Saxon occupation remains, including a lead strip inscribed with runic script, as well as the lost church and cemetery of St Augustine’s.

Paul Murray, senior project officer with Oxford Archaeology, told the BBC, “A certain amount of historical research was done before we got here, so we had a general idea of what to find, but this has exceeded our expectations.

“We had evidence that a church was in the area, but we’ve uncovered its location, so it’s a significant find. Many churches fall into disuse, deteriorate, whatever’s left is robbed for the materials and it falls out of living memory.”

Burial mounds dating back to the seventh-century burial mounds have been found at one end of the site, while the 9th/10th century church and its graveyard were found at the other end. The graveyard seems to have been used up until the 16th century.

Detailed analysis of the burials will begin after the end of the excavation, but preliminary examination suggests that although individuals across the age spectrum were buried in the cemetery, the population was dominated by the very young and very old. In addition, cases of leprosy and syphilis have been detected, while the absence of jewellery or other artefacts, even shroud pins, suggests that the graveyard was a ‘paupers’ cemetery’.

The archaeological work is being done just before a new housing development is created, which is being built by the Genesis Housing Association.

Sources: Oxford Archaeology, BBC

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