Dyrham in South Gloucestershire is having a new boiler fitted and because there is so much potential archaeology in the area the NT is making sure that the pipeline trench from the boiler to the house is watched as it is being dug.
It follows the line of the back entrance to the house leading from Sand Lane approaching the house from the south.
The house is late 17th century but it replaced a Tudor house which replaced a medieval house which lies near a Roman occupation site. The trench is an opportunity to see any buried archaeology beneath the surface.
Last week, Paul, the archaeologist carrying out the watching brief, phoned to say that he had found a bone and he thought it was human. Beneath the back entrance track was an earlier trackway which had been built on silt backfilling a quarry. Perhaps medieval in date. But within the silt was femur which he was sure was human.
He quickly sent it to a bone specialist who confirmed his suspicions…but what was an isolated human bone doing there? Where did it come from? The grave yard lies beside the medieval parish church which lies on the north side of the house.
Beyond the entrance track to the east, the land rises and the long abandoned quarry is a grassy hollow. Above it is a level area. Perhaps the quarry cut a burial site there and the bone fell out of the section and rolled down the slope into the quarry.
We must wait for a radiocarbon date and we will carry out a geophysical survey in this area in September. Perhaps we will fine evidence for the site of a Bronze Age or Neolithic burial mound, a formal cemetery or perhaps an isolated grave from a long forgotten crime or even an erratic scatter of burial pits, a rapid tidying up of the fallen after conflict…