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The Roman cemeteries at Boscombe Down
The cemeteries found so far lie on the western side of the village and are close to trackways that led into the village. All of the cemeteries lie to the west of an ancient boundary.
A thousand years earlier, during the Bronze Age, a long ditch had been dug as a land boundary. The ditch, which ran for kilometres, was 1-2 metres deep and about 2 metres wide. By Roman times the ditch had partly silted up, but it was still up to one metre deep and the Roman trackways had to cross over its course.
The ancient boundary came to be used by the Roman village as a boundary. Beyond it they buried their dead.
As is typical for this time, most of the burials are inhumations, and only a small number of cremation burials have been found. Only about a quarter of the people had lived beyond the age of 35. As was usual, infants and young children were not buried in the cemeteries. They were buried in the village.
One local trait is the way in which a few graves in all the cemeteries were set within small enclosures, similar to grave gardens or gardens of remembrance. There may have been a small bank next to the ditch on which a hedge may have grown.
All the cemeteries date to the third and fourth centuries AD, between 200 and 400 AD though some burials may date to the fifth century. Most of the cemeteries contain between 40-50 graves with one much larger one with at least a 100 graves. The ladies’ burial was found in the largest cemetery.
There are subtle differences between each of the cemeteries. It is not yet known if this is due to them being of slightly date or because they were used by different clans of people, or groups who worshiped different gods.
The number of burials excavated, combined with the facts that they come from different cemeteries associated with one village make the finds from Boscombe Down of national importance.