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Scientists prepare to open Roman coffin found buried in field near Tamworth

By Tamworth Herald  |  Posted: November 01, 2013

  • The coffin is being examined in a secure environment.

  • The ancient coffin, pictured where it lay buried for 1,700 years.

  • Archeoogists prepare to remove the leacoffin.

  • Some Roman coins and artefacts found in the same field.

  • The team of metal detectorists who made the discovery.

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A CHILD’S coffin – believed to be more than 1,700 years old – is to be opened by scientists in the coming days.

The relic, discovered last week in a field six miles outside Tamworth, has been in the hands of archeologists all week and is set for the next stage.

Archaeology Warwickshire’s exhumation expert Rob Jones who has been working on the coffin said: “It looks like we will be able to open the lid and excavate the contents in a

controlled manner with little chance of encountering organic remains.”

A spokesperson for the organisation added: “Meticulous cleaning of the coffin lining has revealed some fascinating technical details.

“For instance the lining was panel-beaten from a single sheet of lead marked out with a sharp implement and the joins at the ends were sealed with molten lead.

“Hammer marks are still visible around the folded lid.

“As part of the process, an endoscope was inserted through a gap in the lid to reveal that the coffin is almost entirely full of clay silt.

“This was necessary to determine if there was a

significant void under the lid.

“The coffin, which will be opened next week, is thought to contain a Roman period child who died in the 3rd or 4th century AD.”

The latest findings come less than two weeks after Chris Wright found the coffin in a farmer’s field. The 30-year-old said he was excited to see the find getting the national recognition he thought it would.

He said: “I’m delighted with the level of interest in this item and hope it gives some valuable clues as to Roman life in the area.

“The initial reports from Archaeology Warwickshire have been fascinating and I’m delighted with the time and effort they are dedicating to this.”

What tamworth was like when ther coffin was buried

JIM Beestone who lives in Tamworth, is a Roman historian and a recent graduate of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

He believes the coffin’s discovery may turn out to be the most significant piece of ancient history the town has ever seen.

He said: “By 300AD, the area around Tamworth had already held significance for the Romans for over two hundred and fifty years – indeed many academics believe Boudica’s legendary last battle against the Romans in 60/61AD was up the road in Mancetter.

“Tamworth would have been at the heart of Roman operations in Britain.

“Nestled between Ratae (modern Leicester) and the military fortress now called Wall near Lichfield, Tamworth would have been a centre of Roman activity, with goods and soldiers travelling up and down Watling Street and Fosse Way.

“The whole area would be full of cargoes of tin and precious metals, dyes, timber and slaves heading to the coast to be sent to Rome. The discovery of the child’s lead coffin in the area has the potential to be incredibly exciting.

“Lead was an expensive material, and the presence of a lead coffin is an indicator that some of the people living locally were extremely wealthy.

“Analysis of the remains could prove interesting too; infant mortality was incredibly high in ancient Rome (so much so that the average life-expectancy in inner-city Rome was 25!) and so any clue as to what the cause of death was could tell us a great deal about living conditions in Britain at that time.”

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