Canterbury site reveals a rich past: Early Christian burials

I’ve here reproduced only some of the background information in the introduction to the article and the portion of the article pertaining to early Christian burials; the entire article from Past Horizons, however, is fascinating and I suggest giving it a read.

The earliest deposits encountered comprise clay quarries and rubbish pits of the early to mid Roman period (1st – late 3rd centuries AD), perhaps suggesting some form of ribbon development against a Roman road following the line of the present day, St Dunstan’s Street.

At that time the Roman provincial town contained a civic centre with fine public buildings (theatre, temple, forum and basilica and public baths), a regular pattern of streets with town houses, shops, workshops, storehouses and all the attributes of an administrative centre, including a sizeable residential population.

A small bronze figurine was found in the fill of a linear Roman feature, perhaps part of a ditch, but analysis has yet to establish the purpose or exact date of this feature. The figurine. however, has been identified as representing Jupiter holding a thunderbolt (fulmen) in his right hand. His raised left hand would have originally held a spear, but this is now lost. The figurine is Roman and probably of 2nd, or 3rd century date.

In the late third century the town was provided with a defensive wall and gates, with the road entering at Burgate and leaving at Westgate. The Roman predecessor of Westgate, together with an associated bridge would have been one of the most important gates to the town.

Soon after the defences were constructed (c AD 270–90) a cemetery was established on the site, with burials taking place perhaps into the late 4th century or later. One hundred and thirty-eight burials were excavated. There were no grave goods and the cemetery appears to be for a later Roman Christian population. Most burials were aligned parallel to the street, in deeply-cut graves, often with evidence for coffins. The graves appeared to have been laid out in groups or rows, suggesting a degree of organization. One part of the cemetery appeared to have been reserved for children.

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