Birdoswald Roman military cemetery

Wildflower meadow to mark burial ground
A NEWLY-excavated ancient burial site is to become a wildflower meadow.
Dales pony Gilly and ploughman Charlie Parker tilled the ground for seed planting at Birdoswald Roman Fort in Gilsland on the Cumbria-Northumberland border.
The fort has already won a  silver award from the Cumbria Business Environment Network for its continuing commitment to green management, which has put energy saving, recycling, composting and supporting wildlife at the top of the agenda at the English Heritage property.
Miriam Lincoln, English Heritage’s visitor operations site supervisor at Birdoswald, said: “The creation of a wildflower meadow is the perfect way of marking a former burial site in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
“Not only will it be a wonderful setting for visitors to enjoy, but it will also help to create habitats for many native wildlife species. “
Birdoswald is a site of special scientific interest because of its diverse range of wildlife.
It was once a working farm and the land around the fort is still farmed today.
“With the sensitivity of the site in mind we decided to revert to traditional ploughing methods by preparing and seeding the land in the most sustainable and traditional way possible,” said Miriam.
“We are delighted to pick up the silver award for our work to date and this meadow is another critical element in our continued commitment to sustainability and environmental management.
“Next year we hope to get the gold standard, which recognises that we are successfully using and monitoring our environmental management system.”
The excavation of the burial site was necessary because erosion was causing the land to slip into the valley of the River Irthing below.
Tony Wilmot, English Heritage archaeologist and project manager for the excavation, said: “Although the loss of archaeology through erosion is regrettable it has given us a unique opportunity to examine a large area of a Roman military cemetery, a type of site that is very little explored and poorly understood.
“The civilian settlement was enormous and there was a garrison of around 1,000 men at the fort for more than 250 years.”
Archaeology professor Ian Haynes from Newcastle University said: “We know from earlier discoveries in and around the fort site that Birdoswald had a very cosmopolitan population during the Roman period.”
The excavation uncovered a road, which led to the burial site and, along the eastern side of the route, was a ditched enclosure that contained pits filled with 12 urns of cremated remains, one also containing chain mail.
During the late 4th Century, the enclosure ditch was filled, with two burials blocking the entrance.

Time Team 2000

Wilmot, T., 1993, ‘The Roman Cremation Cemetery in New Field, Birdoswald’, Trans Cumberland Westmorland Antiq Archaeol Soc, 93, 79-85


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