Airport rewrites history with museum
11 February 2010
X-ray images taken yesterday at Exeter Airport have confirmed that a 2,000 year old urn, found during a recent dig in Cullompton, is a burial urn containing cremated human remains. The images have also revealed several mysterious ‘curved’ objects near the bottom of the jar. These may be larger fragments of bone or possibly metal objects.
The extraordinary black burnished ware urn was found in December at a Cullompton town centre site owned by Millwood Homes (Devon) Ltd. It was unearthed by South West Archaeology Ltd along with a wide range of Roman artefacts. South West Archaeology has commissioned RAMM to conserve the most fragile/important objects and the museum turned to Exeter Airport for help because the burial pot was too large for their machine.
The pot is believed to be from the 1st to mid-2nd century. It was found buried upright in a pit with a smaller pot alongside and a large, shale ‘board’ covering them both. The pot is extremely unusual as it is complete and seemingly undamaged. Roman pots hardly ever survive in such good condition in Devon. Even more unusual is the shale board which was found over the pots. The archaeologists and museum’s conservators are struggling to find a comparative object from anywhere in Roman Britain.
A Roman fort at St Andrews Hill in Cullompton, which was abandoned around the mid-70s AD, was discovered in 1984. This new discovery is evidence that the Roman‘s occupation was much more extensive and continued from the 1st century until the late 4th century. The excavation has revealed a large quantity of pottery and given tantalising glimpses of evidence that there was a Romanised building with a hypocaust (under-floor central heating) and stone floors nearby. There are very few known Romanised buildings in Devon outside of Exeter.
Image above: Anne Carlton, Exeter International Terminal and Security Manager; Bryn Morris, South West Archaeology Ltd; Alison Hopper Bishop, Museums Conservation Officer; Kirstie Williams, RAMM conservator, and Jenny Durrant, Assistant Curator of Antiquities, with the Roman pot.
Anne Carlton, Terminal and Security Manager at Exeter Airport, said “Exeter has a state-of-the-art advanced cabin baggage detection machine and we are delighted to be able to make an exception for the museum and help out with this historic event.”