Canterbury Archeological Trust

Human Bones on the Longmarket site
Trevor Anderson


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An unexpected find on the Longmarket site was the discovery of an articulated burial in a layer provisionally dated to the early medieval period. The skeleton was represented by scapulae, spine, rib fragments, upper right arm and pelvic fragments. The rest of the skeleton had been cut away by later features. Twenty-four feet bones were found loose in the grave fill. The badly damaged skull and the upper two neck vertebrae were found disarticulated in the vicinity (but in a different soil layer). The reason for this occurrence is uncertain. The burial of a body outside a cemetery suggests foul play, possibly the disposal of a medieval murder victim.

The skeleton is male and is c. 18-23 years old. The age estimation is based on dental attrition and the incompletely fused humeral head. Stature estimation, based on the length of the humerus, is 1.85 m. (6 ft O½ins). Despite the young age there are osteophytes on lumbar vertebrae 1 and 3. These bony outgrowths suggest that the disc space was under stress, possibly due to heavy usage and excessive strain. The skull was seriously distorted and broken due to post-mortem soil pressure. There was a shallow, roughly circular, concavity above the eye sockets. These depressions may represent a well-healed injury; they are certainly not the cause of death.

The dentition is of great interest. In the left upper jaw the milk canine (c) and the milk second molar (e) have been retained: they are normally both shed at c. 11 years. Although the frontal teeth have been lost after death the sockets are available for examination. From these it can be seen that the left permanent canine (3) and the lateral incisor (2) had been transposed, i.e. the socket for the long canine root was located where the shorter incisor should have been found. There are no various cavities but the lower teeth are quite heavily encrusted with tartar, especially the lingual aspect of the incisors.

(There was no evidence of cause of death on the available bones. However, one cannot help but speculate that a brawl following comment on his unusual facial features may have been the cause of death. Perhaps the strange dental pattern marked him out as a figure of ill favour and a source of bad luck to his medieval neighbours...)

Longmarket
An overall description of what was found on the site, written while the dig was in progress
Pottery in the Longmarket
Two reports on the pottery finds in the Longmarket
Two Late Saxon Combs
A very interesting article on two hair combs found in the Longmarket excavation
Two Medieval London-type jugs from Longmarket
A detailed report on two interesting jugs found in a cess-pit.

See this place today Click on the logo to see this place today.   The information on this page is Copyright © Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd. 1991 Reproduced with permission.
The text and pictures were taken from Canterbury's Archaeology 1989/1990, The 14th Annual Report of Canterbury Archaeological Trust Ltd.


Peter Collinson Last change: 7th September 2008