Historic mystery could be solved

AN OUTBREAK of a disease like foot-and-mouth may be the answer to an archaeological mystery which has been uncovered on the edge of a market town.A pit discovered on the 22-acre site of a “dig” at Eye has been found to contain the bones of cattle, sheep and pigs dating from the Saxon period.

AN outbreak of a disease like foot-and-mouth may be the answer to an archaeological mystery which has been uncovered on the edge of a market town.

A pit discovered on the 22-acre site of a “dig” at Eye has been found to contain the bones of cattle, sheep and pigs dating from the Saxon period.

But the evidence is that the animals had not been butchered and eaten by their keepers.

“It is very strange and the most likely explanation seems to be that the animals were slaughtered and buried as the result of an outbreak of disease,” said Jo Caruth , senior project officer for Suffolk Archaeological Unit.

Original tracks of a cart - probably with iron-clad wooden wheels - have also been uncovered leading to the pit - one of a series of exciting finds on a dig which is set to re-write the history of Eye.

The archaeologists have unearthed evidence of human presence spanning a period of 4,500 years.

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Fifteen archaeologists working on one of the biggest sites to be excavated in Suffolk for some years have found pottery, human as well as animal bones, brooch fragments, coins and part of a polished Bronze Age flint axe.

Evidence has also been found of smelting - suggesting part of the site was used by the Saxons to carry out industrial work.

The dig on the 22-acre site, on high ground between 500 and 600 yards from the existing town, has also produced evidence of about 20 Saxon buildings dating from the period 410 to 650 AD and an aisled Roman building, thought to have been a barn.

The site is a former steeply-sloped, arable field which, once the archaeologists have completed their work, is to be levelled and converted into new sports pitches for the adjacent Hartismere High School.

Miss Caruth said the work was proving to be very exciting. “Bits and pieces from the Saxon period had been found on nearby fields so we knew there was potential here but the scale of what we have found has surpassed expectations,” she said.

Jim McAtear , head of Hartismere High, said the archaeological dig was providing a classroom on the school's own doorstep.

“Students have already been to see the site. It is great having a slice of history being uncovered so close to us,” he said.

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