Workmen dig up Roman human remains in York

Workmen dig up Roman human remains in York

Some of the finds

The trench in Trentholme Drive

First published in News
Last updated
York Press: Photograph of the Author by , Chief reporter

HUMAN bones thought to date back to Roman times have been dug up by contractors working in the Mount area of York.

The bones, including jaw and leg bones, were discovered on Thursday night in a spoil heap and trench in Trentholme Drive by Dr Mike Heyworth, Director of the Council for British Archaeology, who happens to live nearby.

He called North Yorkshire Police, who came to the scene to check the bones had not been buried in recent times, and the York Archaeological Trust and City of York Council were also informed.

Dr Heyworth said the location was a known Roman burial area, and the trench should not have been dug without permission from the local authority and without an archaeologist present on site, and any finds of bones should have been immediately reported by the contractors.

He was concerned that a child could have come along and removed the bones, and that important archaeological information had been destroyed when the trench was dug.

A spokesman for Northern Powergrid said contractors had been working for the company in Trentholme Drive to replace or upgrade a link box in the power system.

He said they had obtained a permit from the council to carry out the work until August 1, and they had now been allowed to do more work around the link box but not to excavate any further without permission. He believed the contractors would have reported the bones find had they realised what they were.

A spokeswoman for City of York Council today said it had been investigating the incident in line with its procedures.

"It does appear that the works have encroached onto a small section of a known Roman burial area," she said.

"No major or lasting damage has been caused and the few bones which have been disturbed have been removed, are in safe keeping and will be reburied when it is safe to do so. We are happy that all necessary actions have been taken.”

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed that the matter had been investigated and officers were happy the bones were ancient, and the matter had been left in the hands of archaeologists.

Comments (7)

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8:35pm Fri 25 Jul 14

adam reith says...

But why didn't the Council arrange for an archaeologist to be on site when they gave the contractors permission to dig?
But why didn't the Council arrange for an archaeologist to be on site when they gave the contractors permission to dig? adam reith
  • Score: 13

10:19pm Fri 25 Jul 14

Mike Heyworth says...

Very good point made by Adam. At the very least the council's permission should have come with a condition that ensured an archaeologist was on site when the work was done.

It is hard to believe that the workmen did not know what they were uncovering when the spoil heap was scattered with human bones including clearly identifiable leg bones, and jaw bones with teeth. What did they think they were disturbing?!

The Council's comment is also surprising. Of course "lasting damage" was done to the site which has been destroyed without any record. Another piece of the historical jigsaw has been lost and a total lack of respect has been shown to the remains of our ancestors.

This was a known and nationally significant archaeological site with a strong possibility that human remains would be uncovered. The work should have involved an archaeologist on site. There is no excuse.
Very good point made by Adam. At the very least the council's permission should have come with a condition that ensured an archaeologist was on site when the work was done. It is hard to believe that the workmen did not know what they were uncovering when the spoil heap was scattered with human bones including clearly identifiable leg bones, and jaw bones with teeth. What did they think they were disturbing?! The Council's comment is also surprising. Of course "lasting damage" was done to the site which has been destroyed without any record. Another piece of the historical jigsaw has been lost and a total lack of respect has been shown to the remains of our ancestors. This was a known and nationally significant archaeological site with a strong possibility that human remains would be uncovered. The work should have involved an archaeologist on site. There is no excuse. Mike Heyworth
  • Score: 20

10:40am Sat 26 Jul 14

oldgoat says...

Nowhere does it make clear whether the contractors had done what is supposed to happen, but neither does it say that they were aware?

We seem to have half a story here, where some of the angles have been missed out, per the normal standards of reporting by our local rag.
Nowhere does it make clear whether the contractors had done what is supposed to happen, but neither does it say that they were aware? We seem to have half a story here, where some of the angles have been missed out, per the normal standards of reporting by our local rag. oldgoat
  • Score: -1

3:21am Sun 27 Jul 14

Terry3 says...

That was a well known site..I was on the original dig there and I know that it was well photographed and documented..There is no excuse for this vandalism and the contractor needs to be held responsible
That was a well known site..I was on the original dig there and I know that it was well photographed and documented..There is no excuse for this vandalism and the contractor needs to be held responsible Terry3
  • Score: 1

10:19pm Sun 27 Jul 14

notpedallingpaul says...

Terry3 wrote:
That was a well known site..I was on the original dig there and I know that it was well photographed and documented..There is no excuse for this vandalism and the contractor needs to be held responsible
The contractor indeed should be held to account if it is found that he did not work to the terms of the "Permit to Work" issued by the Client.
The ultimate responsibility rests with the Client, who issues to the contractor a "Permit to Work" which should outline any peculiarities of the site in particular where excavations are to be undertaken, and likewise the Client should be held to account if it is found he failed in his duty to inform the contractor of the site peculiarities and information missed out of the "Permit to Work".
As it appears that the site was a well known, photographed and documented, this information would and should have been passed to the contractor and any excavations carried out in the presence of an archeologist.
An investigation should be carried out to establish If either the Client or the contractor involved failed to implement any of the procedures that were put in place, and controls introduced on future projects of a similar nature to ensure this is not repeated.
[quote][p][bold]Terry3[/bold] wrote: That was a well known site..I was on the original dig there and I know that it was well photographed and documented..There is no excuse for this vandalism and the contractor needs to be held responsible[/p][/quote]The contractor indeed should be held to account if it is found that he did not work to the terms of the "Permit to Work" issued by the Client. The ultimate responsibility rests with the Client, who issues to the contractor a "Permit to Work" which should outline any peculiarities of the site in particular where excavations are to be undertaken, and likewise the Client should be held to account if it is found he failed in his duty to inform the contractor of the site peculiarities and information missed out of the "Permit to Work". As it appears that the site was a well known, photographed and documented, this information would and should have been passed to the contractor and any excavations carried out in the presence of an archeologist. An investigation should be carried out to establish If either the Client or the contractor involved failed to implement any of the procedures that were put in place, and controls introduced on future projects of a similar nature to ensure this is not repeated. notpedallingpaul
  • Score: 1

6:36pm Mon 28 Jul 14

Chunkylover81 says...

People commenting on this should also realise, the utility companies have strict rule and coordinate works with the council. They are granted access to work on the street using laws which the council enforce. It is the councils duty under these laws to monitor and coordinate utility works, and they have failed to protect this site. The utility is doing its job correctly, it appear the council are not.
People commenting on this should also realise, the utility companies have strict rule and coordinate works with the council. They are granted access to work on the street using laws which the council enforce. It is the councils duty under these laws to monitor and coordinate utility works, and they have failed to protect this site. The utility is doing its job correctly, it appear the council are not. Chunkylover81
  • Score: 2

6:40pm Mon 28 Jul 14

Chunkylover81 says...

adam reith wrote:
But why didn't the Council arrange for an archaeologist to be on site when they gave the contractors permission to dig?
Because with cut backs they can't afford to employ enough staff to for every works request, and in law they only have 5 days to say no. They haven't seen these works and they haven't warned the utility company, you have to remember that utility people aren't local to the area and can only go from what they are informed of.
[quote][p][bold]adam reith[/bold] wrote: But why didn't the Council arrange for an archaeologist to be on site when they gave the contractors permission to dig?[/p][/quote]Because with cut backs they can't afford to employ enough staff to for every works request, and in law they only have 5 days to say no. They haven't seen these works and they haven't warned the utility company, you have to remember that utility people aren't local to the area and can only go from what they are informed of. Chunkylover81
  • Score: 0

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