Discovery of an ancient grave

It’s been an intriguing month at Churchtown Farm, with the discovery and excavation of an ancient cist grave, dating back perhaps to the 1st century.cist - coins and flowers

The story began early in the year when a mysterious hole opened up in one of our fields. Scilly is hot spot for ancient remains and we started to get excited about what we might find; a similar grave on Byher yielded a very impressive sword not so long ago.

Scilly AONB came to take a look and we chatted to several people with local historical knowledge. So when two archaeologists from Cornwall, Charlie and Sean, arrived for a week long dig to record what lurks below, we already had some idea that there might be some archaeological merit in the hole. It was amazing to see how thoroughly the guys worked; everything was excavated and recorded with incredible care and precision – even in the rather wet conditions they had to endure!

On Friday 8th November, we had more curious visitors – representatives from Natural England and Cornwall Council’s archaeology team – who came to see what had been unveiled…

Once the cap stones were lifted, the grave revealed it had been carefully lined with granite rocks and with a layer of ‘ram’. This is earth that would have been carefully placed in the bottom of the cist to create a surface on which to place the body. There was also a grey layer in the soil that indicated where the body would have been.

We were also really excited to learn that that Charlie and Sean found a brooch. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a good look at it because it had to be kept in the clump of mud in which it was found for safe transportation back to the mainland…which is where it is now being carefully extricated. The archaeologists also took various soil samples from the grave to analyse, in the hope that they will find pollen traces that will help them date the grave. Early indications suggest that the cist could date back to 1st century AD.

After the dig was completed at the end of last week, we placed some coins and some of our flowers in the grave. This was done so that any future archaeologists will know that somebody was there before them and, of course, the date on the coins will tell them exactly when that was. As luck would have it, we were able to include a shiny new 2013 penny. The grave has now been carefully refilled and made stable.

Naturally, we’re now very eager to learn more about the brooch that was found. Once it’s been cleaned and analysed, we’ll post some pictures on our Facebook page.

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