Saxon graveyard found under Warwickshire patio

Last summer, homeowners Stephen and Nicky West were having an addition built on to their house in Ratley, south Warwickshire, when their builders found a skeleton buried under the patio. The Wests are local history enthusiasts and immediately thought the body might be a casualty from a 1642 English Civil War battle that took place in nearby Edgehill.

They contacted the Warwickshire County Council who dispatched experts to determine whether the skeleton was historical or a the result of contemporary foul play. The archaeologist’s preliminary assessment was that any foul play that might have occurred took place hundreds of years ago. Under normal circumstances the find would not have been pursued much further because the local council doesn’t have the money to analyze every skeleton found under people’s patios. It was Stephen and Nicky West who personally commissioned Archaeology Warwickshire to excavate further under the patio and test the bones.

The archaeologists identified the remains of at least four bodies which included two adult females, a young male and a juvenile aged between 10 and 12.

Radiocarbon dates from two of the skeletons show that they died around 650-820 AD in what is known as the middle Saxon period. […]

[Archaeology Warwickshire’s manager Stuart] Palmer said: “The discovery of this previously unsuspected burial ground is an extremely rare and important addition to what has previously been an archaeologically invisible period of Warwickshire’s history.

“Detailed analysis of the skeletons has revealed an insight into the health of the middle Saxon population who clearly suffered periods of malnourishment and were subject to a wide range of infections indicative of lives of extreme hardship and often near-constant pain.”

Palmer believes the four skeletons found are part of a larger burial ground underneath the West’s home and adjacent properties. There won’t be further excavations, what with the people living there, but given the centuries of development on the spot, it’s remarkable that 1200-year-old plus skeletons were found at all.

The bones will be kept in storage by Archaeology Warwickshire until they decide what the final disposition will be. No little girls have been reported sucked into their TVs as of press time.