Excavating the burial at Kelshall

Excavating the burial at Kelshall in November 2014

Unusual archaeological finds dating back to AD 200 have been discovered in a field near Royston. The artefacts, which form part of a burial, probably of a wealthy and cosmopolitan individual, are a unique find in Britain and experts in ancient finds are already clamouring to study these rare objects.

Discovered late last year by a local metal detectorist in a field in Kelshall, a complete Roman jug was the first thing to be found. A bronze dish, a larger jug and then a third jug were soon uncovered. Realising this was an important find it was reported and Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, North Hertfordshire District Council’s (NHDC) Archaeology and Outreach Officer, decided that it would be a good idea to investigate further.

Bronze jug

Bronze jug with decorated handle

Once the dig was underway, glass bottles, an iron lamp and wall mounting bracket, two layers of hobnails from a pair of shoes and a box with bronze corner bindings were uncovered. Two shattered, but otherwise complete, mosaic glass dishes stood on top of a decayed wooden box which held two broken clear glass cups and a pair of blue glass handles. The largest glass bottle was hexagonal, and contained cremated bone and a worn bronze coin dating from AD 174-5. A rare octagonal bottle stood next to it. A major find was mosaic glass dishes likely made in Alexandria, Egypt, around AD 200

Millefiori dish

Glass millefiori dish, made in Alexandria

Currently owned by the farmer and the finder, the North Hertfordshire Museum Service hopes to raise the money to buy the finds, so they can be displayed when the new museum opens later in the year.

After 1800 years, finds like these still impress us with their workmanship. Working together with the metal detectorist, NHDC’s archaeologist and the Finds Liaison Officer, were able to uncover the past and find out and understand so much more about the lives of people in Roman North Herts.

A guest post by Daisy Bradford, who did four weeks’ work experience with the Museum Service in August 2014:

This summer holiday just past, I spent four weeks doing voluntary with the North Herts Archaeology Service because I have a passion for archaeology and I plan to study it at university when I complete my A-Levels.

Daisy working at the Museums Resource Centre, Burymead Road in Hitchin

Daisy working at the Museums Resource Centre, Burymead Road in Hitchin

In my four weeks with the local archaeologists and museum workers in North Hertfordshire, I learned a lot of things and gained a lot of experience that will aid me in my future ambitions and also as useful life skills. I spent a lot of time with artefacts, holding them, observing them, classifying, photographing, cleaning and it really enabled me to have a close insight into the archaic culture of our ancestors that you won’t get from visiting a museum.

I also got to go on a few site visits to current commercial digs throughout the county, which was fascinating for me, who’d never seen a real dig let alone got to go on one and see how they are organised and all the amazing things the archaeologists find and it showed me how incredibly rich the history is just outside my front door.

This experience has been a great one for me and I’ve earned many skills and a deeper understanding of the study of Archaeology, as well as increasing my passion for it.

I’d also like to say thanks to Keith and Ros, who made sure I was doing all my work right and made the experience even more enjoyable.

This year’s summer excavation by the Norton Community Archaeology Group is coming to an end, so today the museum team went to see what they have found.

museum team tour of archaeological site

Archaeology Officer Keith gives the Museum Team the guided tour


Keith points out pit on archaeological site

Archaeological Officer Keith points out a pit

It is a very interesting site, which Keith really brings to life. I would encourage those of you who are able to go along to the Open Day tomorrow and have a look for yourself. If you can’t visit, Keith and other members of  the Norton Group have been keeping a blog detailing the progress each day, and posting pictures of some of the finds.