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22 September 2010, 10:23
Sixth form students have unearthed the remains of a 2,000 year old Roman village beneath a Cambridge University garden.
Large amounts of Roman pottery and the remains of an old farmhouse were discovered beneath Newnham College.
20 sixth form girls from Peterborough, London and Birmingham, took part in the dig on a visit to Cambridge set up so they could experience college life.
The site first became of interest in the late 1930s when five skeletons, said to be Anglo-Saxon, were discovered while air raid shelters were being dug in readiness for the Second World War.
Headed by Dorothy Garrod, Cambridge University’s first female professor and a renowned archaeologist, a team of women from the college excavated the graves using dessert spoons and toothbrushes.
After the war, the air raid shelters were covered with soil and the exact location of the graves was lost.
But when Dr Hills, a Fellow of Newnham and an expert in archaeological burial, heard about the story, she was keen to find out more about the mysterious skeletons.
Doctors and staff from the college then decided to get some students involved with the dig, using the excavation to demonstrate archaeology and also allow young people to gain an insight into studying at Cambridge.
Doctor Lewis, one of the people leading the dig, said: "We knew there was a Roman settlement here before but we had no idea of the size.
The village has been buried under the gardens for nearly 2,000 years, and may have seen the Roman conquest of Britain and Boudicca’s revolt.
The 16th-century farmhouse was a complete surprise."
Photo (c) Miranda Crowhurst.