Oxford Archaeology- Angel Meadow Winter 2013/14


We monitored the ground works required during the refurbishment of the steps into the park, to ensure that any human remains uncovered were treated appropriately.

In the first instance, we excavated a couple of small trail pits to a depth of 1.35m below the modern ground surface to try and establish whether there were any buried remains that might be disturbed. Whilst nothing came to light in these test pits, other than fairly recent deposits, we concluded that we should nevertheless monitor the ground works just in case. This proved to be a wise precaution, as human remains were exposed at depth when the new foundation trenches were opened up. In total, 917 fragments of human bone were recovered during the course of the work, of which approximately 700 were identifiable.

The majority of these bones had been disturbed previously (and I suspect that this had been during the landscaping works carried out in the 1980s/90s), with only a single articulated skeleton being found in-situ. The skeleton was that of a mature adult male (ageing and sexing based on cranium, and sub pubic angle) Overall the condition of the bone was good. Timber staining beneath the pelvis and around the outside of the skeleton indicates that this individual was interred in a single-wood, single-break coffin and buried on the traditional east/west orientation. Two iron coffin nails were also retrieved from amongst the skeletal remains.

A second set of remains, those of a young adult male (probably aged between 16 - 18 years) were not found in situ or articulated, however when collected for study were found to represent around 75% of a complete skeleton, suggesting that the individual had been lifted and re-deposited as a single entity at some point during earlier intrusive site works.

In total the 700 identifiable fragments cumulatively represent the remains of approximately 24 incomplete sets of human remains, of which twenty were either prime or mature adults, one was a young adult and three were juveniles of less than 6 years. Bone conditions were variable with a large number of bone fragments being in poor condition, showing high levels of abrasion and demineralisation, much of which can be attributed to the remains being disturbed in probably more than one occasion. Less than 25% percentage of the assemblage could be classed as in a good state of preservation. Fragmentation of the post-cranial skeleton was very variable, with the majority of the bones exhibiting some degree of post-mortem break to them. The condition of some of the bones was indicative of some people having suffered from rickets.