Human Burial Number 7

The grave was oriented North-South, with the feet to the South.  The flexed skeleton was reasonably intact, comprising the long bones, vertebrae, ribs and skull.  However, the skull was highly fragmented.  The condition of the bone was good and there was little sign of weathering.  There were no obvious pathological lesions present.

Age:
Determination of age was based upon the assessment of epiphyseal fusion and measurement of long bone diaphyseal length (Scheuer et al, 1980).  The mandibular symphysis was unfused.  The greater wing of the sphenoid, which fuses between 0-9 months, was partly fused.  The results from long bone measurement were as follows:

              Right femur: 76mm        Right tibia: 70mm        Left humerus: 63mm        Left ulna: 63mm

These measurements give a foetal age of between 37.4 and 40.9 weeks, with the mean being 39 weeks +/- 2 weeks.  This suggests that the individual either died at birth, or within a week of birth.

Discussion:
Infant burials found under floors and in farmyards on villa sites are often interpreted as evidence for infanticide and subsequent secret burial (Scott, 1991(,  Watts (1989) points out that the classical Roman authors, such as Plint, refer to the burial of infants under the eaves of houses.  In Britain there is evidence from the Iron Age for some ritual attached to the burial of infants; this continued through to the Roman period (Watts ibid).  Scott (ibid) has suggested that burial of infants in agricultural contexts, such as malting floors, may represent an attempt to promote the "rebirth" of babies who died peri and neo-natally.