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Durham University

Research & business

Archaeologists unearth Durham’s earliest known resident

(11 February 2020)

One of the bone fragments found

Durham is well known for its inspiring World Heritage Site, home to the 900-year-old Durham Castle and Cathedral. But our archaeologists have now found proof that people have been living in the area for at least 2,000 years.

Why were they digging and what did they find?

Our archaeologists were digging at a site about 1km from the Cathedral, before a building project began.

They found parts of human skull, arm and leg bones. These have now been dated to 90BC-60AD, making their owner Durham’s earliest recorded human resident.

What do the discoveries tell us?

The fragments are so badly damaged that we cannot be sure whether the person was male or female. But we do know that they were an adult and were cremated.

Dr David Mason, Principal Archaeologist at Durham County Council, said the discoveries were very significant and were further evidence that people lived in the area during the Iron Age (800BC-43AD) and Romano-British (43-410AD) periods.

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

Find out more

Find out more about the discoveries at the ‘2000 years of life at 18-29 Claypath’ exhibition, at our Museum of Archaeology.

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