Surprise Bronze Age discovery by York students

posted 23 Jun 2011, 05:34 by Paul Brayford
University of York Archaeology students have unearthed a rare Bronze Age cremation urn during excavations on the University’s campus.

The collared urn containing a cremation burial, together with a further cremation without a pot, were found by students from the Department of Archaeology on the site of the University’s £750 million campus expansion at Heslington East in May.

This rare find, which dates back around 4,000 years, was lifted complete by specialist conservators from York Archaeological Trust. The cremation was then excavated from within the pot by Malin Holst, of York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, at the University’s archaeology laboratory at King’s Manor.

Malin Holst, who is also a teaching fellow at the University of York, concluded that some of the fragments of bone which had survived the cremation process belonged to an infant, but full analysis of the pot and cremation is continuing.

Dr Cath Neal, from the University’s Department of Archaeology, said: “This is a very exciting and unexpected find as most of the features in the area investigated this year are from the Roman period, including evidence for timber buildings, hearths, furnaces and trackways.”

Archaeological work on the Heslington East site will finish this year. The most exciting find to date is the remains of an Iron Age skull and brain found in 2008. Brain material was still in the skull which dates back around 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest surviving brains in Europe.

Dr Neal will lead a community excavation on the Heslington East campus from 21 June to 1 July. Anyone interested should email

© 2011 University of York
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