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TVAS News: Itchen Farm Park and Ride Revisited

Post-excavation studies of the finds from the Itchen Farm Park and Ride site in Winchester have revealed more about the people who once occupied this area. One of the finds of particular interest is Burial 3567, which was originally reported on the TVAS website on 15th May 2009: TVAS News - Itchen Farm Park and Ride, Winchester.

This single inhumation was a crouched burial, roughly orientated east- west, with the body resting in a simple shallow grave, on its right side. There was no evidence of a mound which may have covered the grave, or any other form of marker. Despite the preservation of the remains being poor due to the soil conditions, it was possible to estimate the age at death to be approximately 4-6 years by measuring the extent of dental development. Because the skeleton was that of a child, sex determination was not possible. Examination of the remains of the skull showed the presence of a porosity in the eye sockets known as cribra orbitalia. This is caused by vitamin B12 deficiency which could be a result of disease or, more likely, the mother’s poor nutritional health.

The most interesting discovery was that Burial 3567 produced a radiocarbon date of 4082–3971 cal BC (KIA42095) which is very early in the Early Neolithic period, not long after it is thought that the ‘neolithic package’ of ideas, plants, animals and probably people arrived in the British Isles. Most burials from this period were collective with the bodies being deposited together, typically in long barrows or chambered tombs. Yet the Itchen Farm burial is similar to another found at Blackwall on the Isle of Dogs, London which has an equally early radiocarbon date (Coles et al, Proc. Prehist. Soc. 74, 2008 215-233, TVAS news). Together, these burials hint at a burial practice distinct from and perhaps earlier than the collective burial practice which hitherto has characterised the period.

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

General view of the grave. View of the skeleton.

Close-up view of the skeleton. Close-up view of the skull.