Headland Archaeology, which provides archaeological services and heritage advice to Swindon Borough Council, has finished its work on the Southern Connector Road site.

Some of the experts’ key findings have included a large rectangular structure (20m long and 15m wide), Romano-British pottery and a trackway, and even human remains.

The skeleton is an adult male from around 330 AD, as he was found with coins of this date that were made in London. He also had spinal joint problems and missing teeth due to poor oral health. The unique find is very unusual as coins are not normally found with the body, as they are usually removed before burial and used by family members. The coins are now with the coroner.

Thorough archaeological investigations were carried out before and during the construction of the Southern Connector Road to mitigate any impact on archaeological remains in the area.

The Southern Connector Road project has ensured that the most significant archaeological remains are preserved along the route, but where excavations were required, the work has been carried out by Headland Archaeology and the heritage team at Atkins in accordance with the Wiltshire County Archaeologist.

The earliest find was a small Bronze Age flint arrowhead recovered from a hole dug for a wooden post. Further evidence of Bronze Age activity in the form of pottery finds were also uncovered.

Evidence of Romano-British agricultural activity, land divisions, trackways and a stone building were recorded, along with multiple human burials. Many Romano-British artefacts were recovered, including metalwork, pottery, and glass beads.

Soil samples taken across the site showed evidence of cereals, beans, oyster shell and bone, giving us an insight into the diet of the people who once lived here. Headland Archaeology will continue to learn more as the analysis of the recovered material continues.

The recent archaeological work builds on the excavations of the Roman Town of Durocornovium in the 1960s and 1970s. The latest excavations have provided a great deal of information about life outside of the Roman towns; about the people on the periphery and how they lived.

The brand-new 1.5 mile Southern Connector Road will link Commonhead roundabout to the New Eastern Villages development.

Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger, Wiltshire County Archaeologist and archaeological advisor to Swindon Borough Council and Buckingham Group Contracting, said:

“There have been some very interesting and significant discoveries which have been highlighted on Swindon Borough Council’s website.

“More will be revealed over the next few months and years as Headland undertake the analysis and assessment of the findings, leading to the full publication and dissemination of the results.

“The results of the archaeological works show evidence for several distinct periods of activity, ranging from the Prehistoric to Post-Medieval, with most of the archaeology dating to the Iron Age (800BC – 43AD) and Romano-British (43AD – 410AD) periods. This wasn’t surprising given that the site is close to the Scheduled Roman town of Durocornovium.”

Harriet Bryant-Buck, Project Manager at Headland Archaeology, said:

“We worked closely with Swindon Borough Council, Atkins’ heritage team, ecologists, and Buckingham Group to carefully structure the work in a way that provided a balance between uncovering the history of the area and creating infrastructure for the needs of today.

“The careful planning and effective communication involved in the project enabled us to create a window into this small parcel of Wiltshire’s past, ensuring that the history of the area was not lost amidst an ever-changing landscape.”

Jessica Lowther, Community Archaeologist, Headland Archaeology, said:

“The Southern Connector Road project  has not only allowed us to uncover fascinating aspects of everyday life in the transition between the Iron Age and Romano-British periods, it has also included a budget for community engagement which is a vital part of development-led archaeology.

“Although it was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to find innovative ways to share information, such as through our podcast series, and we were able to deliver talks and Q&A sessions when restrictions lifted. We’re now working on educational resources alongside the post-excavation analysis, which will allow us to share the discoveries and the importance of the site with local schools.”