Norwich, Castle Mall

Norfolk Archaeological Unit, 2009

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Cemetery 3: Beneath Farmer's Avenue (Site 777N)

Another unexpected cemetery consisting of 89 graves lay partially beneath the castle's south bailey rampart (Fig_4_37; Fig_4.140). The human bone represented 65 adults (23 males, 41 females and 1 unsexed) and 26 children. Additional bone recovered from grave fills and other features brings the total number of individuals to 106. The bodies were all supine and may have been buried in shrouds. Many graves provided evidence for wooden coffins or possible plank burial. All of the large, rectangular graves were aligned east-to-west, with a few slightly nearer south-west to north-east. The large, rectangular graves were generally widely spaced and were arranged in 14-15 rows. They had been placed slightly closer together towards the south, where some were intercutting.

Figure 4.10

Fig 4.37 Period 1.3 Plan of Cemetery 3. Click the image for a full-size version in a new window.

Possible 'family' groupings were tentatively identified although there was no evidence for the presence of grave markers. A slight concentration of infants and juveniles was noted to run along the eastern side of the cemetery and another cluster lay to the north-east. In general, however, the cemetery produced fewer infants than other contemporary graveyards and more such burials may have lain closer to the church. One child burial lay isolated to the east of the main burial group. Although there was a higher proportion of females to males within the cemetery, there were no clear spatial concentrations relating to sex.

The nature of any cemetery boundaries is uncertain, although the graveyard was effectively confined between a hollow to the west and a postulated road to the east. The hollow ran about 10m to the west of the most westerly grave. To the north-west, no graves were found west of a series of gullies although the different alignment of these gullies (north-to-south) may suggest a coincidental positioning; the original demarcation of the cemetery may have been, for example, a fence or hedge no physical evidence for which survived. Clearly, the graves did not extend as far as the lines of pits and structure(s) located to the west with which they are likely to have been contemporary. No northern boundary was apparent but again, it may have been demarcated by a fence. To the east, four graves cutting into earlier pits may have been outliers to the main part of the cemetery or the same concentration of graves may have continued across the whole area from west to east. To the south, it is possible that some graves were removed during the original excavation of the south bailey ditch, although the close packing of graves in this area of the cemetery suggest that the boundary lay nearby.

Ceramics from grave fills suggest that this cemetery may have been established in the late 10th century, with burial continuing into the early to mid 11th century, although radiocarbon dates (from 15 skeletons; Bayliss in Shepherd Popescu forthcoming a) indicate that the burial ground could have originated as early as the late 9th century. A duration of 1-155 years (95% confidence) is suggested. Some graves contained mid 11th-century pottery, although the area may already have seen a change of land use prior to the Conquest.

Analysis of the human bone indicates that, demographically, the group was unusual in having a greater number of women than men, although this may simply be due to the fact that the entire cemetery was not excavated. A higher proportion of females to males in comparison with the cemetery at Anglia Television was noted. This may reflect factors such as areas of preferred burial within a cemetery, with women to the west (?) and males to the north. It could also link to the dedications of the related churches - one saint appealing to females and another to males - although uncertainty over the catchment areas of urban early churchyards makes such a suggestion tenuous. Using comparative skeletal groups, it has been suggested that most East Anglian Saxons reached at least middle age and many were probably older (Anderson in Shepherd Popescu, forthcoming a).

Although the attribution of skeletal changes to particular occupations should be treated with caution, two individuals appeared to have changes suggestive of a similar activity in life; similar changes have elsewhere been attributed to weaving and/or shoemaking. Differences in degenerative diseases between the sexes may indicate different daily tasks. There was a high level of lesions associated with iron deficiency anaemia and a possible case of scurvy was identified (dietary deficiencies were also notable in the adjacent Anglia Television cemetery). Physical traumas were frequent, including a hip fracture which may indicate a high fall or 'traffic' accident. There was also a fairly high proportion of stress-related diseases of the spine and ankles/feet, associated with a greater than average presence of trauma. This may relate to environment (e.g. uneven ground), poor footwear and perhaps the occupation of the individuals concerned.

No church associated with this cemetery was recorded, although it is possible that one of the excavated buildings in the area may have performed such a function. The remains of a timber structure (Building 23) are perhaps the most likely candidate as a church, with a possible square chamber at its eastern end. It was of similar dimensions (10m long) to the church recorded beneath the north-east bailey, although its groundplan is not particularly convincing. There was a notable gap in burials to the east of the main concentration, within which a single child burial was recorded. This may imply the presence of a church here, in an area where the fragmentary remains of several buildings (including Building 23) were evident. Alternatively, the church may have lain just outside the excavated area, or there may not have been a church accompanying the cemetery at all. At Southampton, it has been suggested that some of the smaller cemeteries may simply have been accompanied by a free-standing cross (Morton 1992, 51). At the Anglia Television site a post-hole set within a pit was tentatively interpreted as supporting such a timber cross (Ayers 1985, 24), although at this particular site the remains of a timber church were clearly evident.