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The University of Southampton

Roman animal bones discovered in Iron Age ditch

Published: 4 February 2004

Animal bones that may throw new light on the Roman invasion of Britain have been discovered by archaeologists on the site of a former Roman Palace in Sussex.

During an excavation run by the Sussex Archaeological Society at Fishbourne Roman Palace near Chichester, a late Iron Age ditch was discovered which contained a charred layer of quantities of pottery and animal remains possibly from a ritual feast.

According to archaeologist Dr Naomi Sykes of the University of Southampton's School of Humanities, although the ditch has very definite Iron Age affinities, the animal remains suggest a strong Roman influence. The high frequency of pig bones plus the presence of fish, domestic fowl, hare, red deer and oyster shell, all animals seldom eaten in the Iron Age, hint at cultural influences from the continent.

"This discovery may help us to throw new light on the Roman conquest of Britain," comments Dr Sykes. "The precise events of the Conquest -- when and where the Romans entered Britain and whether they were friendly with the native population - are still a matter of some debate and this discovery will certainly fuel discussion."

Fishbourne Roman Palace was discovered by accident during the digging of a water main trench in 1960. The discovery led to nine seasons of excavations that showed the site had developed from a military base at the time of the Roman invasion in AD43 to a sumptuous palace by the end of the first century. Over the last five years, new excavations by the Sussex Archaeological Society have revealed exciting new insights into this development.

The project was undertaken by Dr Sykes for the Centre for Applied Archaeological Analyses in the School of Humanities.

Images: Digital images of Dr Sykes at work with the bones are available from the Press and PR office 023 8059 3807, or email

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