Durham’s earliest known resident found

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Archaeologists from Durham University have discovered human remains from what they believe to be Durham’s earliest known resident. 

The team from the University’s Archaeological Services unearthed bone fragments while excavating in Claypath, on a site which now houses private student accommodation.

According to the Archaeologists, the bone fragments came from a person’s skull, forearm and shin bone and have been dated from between 90BC and 60AD. 

Natalie Swann, the Senior Project Archaeologist at Durham University said: “When we got the radiocarbon dates back, we were all very surprised to find how early they were. 

This adds to our knowledge of the history of Durham, showing that people were living and dying here long before the well-known medieval occupation of the City.” 

Dr David Mason, Principal Archaeologist at Durham County Council, agreed: “The earliest discoveries on this site are very significant and add to a growing body of evidence for settlement on the Durham peninsula and surrounding area in the Iron Age and Romano-British periods.” 

The bone fragments came from a person’s skull, forearm and shin bone.

The fragments are so badly damaged that the archaeologists cannot be sure whether the person was male or female and they are too delicate to be displayed publicly. 

As well as evidence of the Iron Age cremation, archaeologists found items from medieval rubbish pits and 18th Century streetfront buildings. 

The discovery of the bones is explored along with some other finds at the excavation in a new exhibition: ‘2000 years of life at 18-29 Claypath’.

Gemma Lewis, Curator of the Museum of Archaeology at Durham University, said: “As well as introducing us to Durham’s first resident, ‘2000 years’ includes beautiful discoveries such as a Middle Age harness pendant.” 

The exhibition is taking place at Durham’s Museum of Archaeology.

Photography: Durham University

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