Scorton, N. Yorkshire (awarded 2012)

At Hollow Banks Quarry, Scorton, located just north of Catterick, a highly unusual group of 15 late Roman burials was excavated between 1998-2000. The small cemetery consists of almost exclusively male burials, dated to the 4th century AD. An unusually large proportion of these individuals was buried with crossbow-brooches and belt fittings, suggesting that these men may have been serving in the late Roman army or administration, and that they may have come to Scorton from the continent. Multi-isotope analyses (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and strontium) of nine sufficiently well-preserved individuals indicates that seven males, all equipped with crossbow brooches and/or belt fittings, were not local to the Catterick area and at least six of them probably came from the European mainland. Dietary (carbon and nitrogen isotopes only) analysis of a tenth individual also suggest a non-local origin. Nevertheless, the relationship between artefacts, burial rite and isotopic evidence is not always straightforward, suggesting that cultural and social factors played an important part in the creation of funerary identities. The paper highlights the need for multi-proxy analyses, and for the careful contextual study of the artefacts.

Hella Eckardt & Gundula Müldner, University of Reading