3,500-year-old baby is unearthed

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed the tiny skeleton of a 3,500-year-old baby at a quarry near Peterborough.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have unearthed the tiny skeleton of a 3,500-year-old baby at a quarry near Peterborough.The discovery was made close to the centre of a Bronze Age burial mound at Pode Hole – a sprawling gravel quarry west of Thorney.

Coming two months after the well-preserved remains of a Bronze Age man were found 50 metres away, experts are convinced they have uncovered an ancient cemetery.

The stunning discovery of the baby – which was under a year old, or possibly a still-born birth – was made by Phoenix Consulting Archaeology during routine excavation work.

The child was lying in a grave lined with birch bark, and a complete pottery vessel, with an offering of grain or wheat inside, was found next to the bones.

Lead archaeologist Dr Andy Richmond said: "We knew about the existence of round barrows because aerial shots detailed crop growth variations. But over the years, these mounds have been ploughed away, disturbing the burial grounds.

"To find the skeleton of such a young child was an exciting discovery, and the bones were extremely soft."

John Penny, who is a senior surveyor for Bardon Aggregates, which runs the quarry, said: "Excavation work at the site has been ongoing for eight years and, until now, little has come to light regarding the men and women who lived in the area.

"However, in recent months the archaeologists have come across remarkable evidence that points to the lives and routines of people who carved out an agricultural landscape in the area, in the form of a communal burial ground.

"The excavations help historians and archaeologists to piece together the jigsaw of life on the edge of the Fens from the late Neolithic period through to the late Bronze Age."

The skeletons and artefacts will be sent for testing to gauge a better understanding of the social side of their ancient communities, and to determine age, sex, diet, disease and dental information.

It is hoped some of the artefacts will eventually be displayed at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, in Priestgate.

When archaeologists are satisfied that all potential Bronze Age findings have been removed, Peterborough City Council will sanction the quarrying of the burial site.

Pode Hole Quarry opened in 1996 and the extracted sand and gravel were used for the A1(M) expansion between Peterborough and Alconbury.

Bardon Aggregates took over the management of the site in 1998, and the quarry has an annual production rate of 300,000 tonnes.