The excavation process

Stage 1

Identifying a cremation burialIdentifying a cremation burial
Firstly the archaeologists use their skill and experience to spot a potential cremation burial in the ground. They then survey its location and take a pre-excavation photograph (left).

Stage 2

Excavating the soil around the urnExcavating the soil around the urn
The second stage is to excavate the soil from around the outside of the urn. If there appears to cremated bone or pyre debris around the urn this is done in quadrants. The soil is then bagged and taken away to be processed. Once the soil has been removed the urn is wrapped in bandages to stabilise the pottery and allow it to be lifted from the ground with the contents of the urn still in place.

Stage 3

Excavating the soil within the urnExcavating the soil within the urn
The soil within the urn is carefully excavated. Where possible the cremated bone is removed by an osteoarchaeologist who can identify some of the bone as it is removed. If this is not feasible, the urn is emptied in consistent 2cm spits. Recording in this manner enables the position of any gaps or grave/pyre goods within the vessel to be noted. The osteoarchaeologist can then work out the order in which the bones were deposited and the number of individuals. They also look for other remains such as animal bones within the urn.

Stage 4

The potteryThe pottery
Any objects found within the urn are then examined by a team of specialists. In this instance the pottery was identified as Romano-British. Inside the urn were two vessels, one a storage jar and the other a samian dish. The urn/amphora was also identified as being of a typology known as Dressel 20, the most commonly found type of amphora in Roman Britain.