I’ve just discovered where archaeologists spend most of their time. It isn’t on large excavations or high profile projects. It is most usually following a trench someone else happens to be digging - as often as not the route of a new Anglian Water pipeline or a building site.Two local archaeologists told me this. They were digging at the back of the old part of St Michael’s at the time. When we got permission to put a kitchen area and a toilet with access for the disabled there, getting them in was (quite rightly) one of the conditions. We didn’t think they would find anything. The floor in this part of the church was put down in 1913 when the huge tower next to it was being built. The earlier floor of the church was said to have been a few steps down from this. The foundations of new walls and the route of new drainage we were putting in didn’t seem likely to go that much deeper.But we were wrong. At first they found an unexpectedly large number of jumbled bones.
Time Team at St. Michael’s
The best guess was these were remains uncovered when the tower and new part of the church were being built which had simply been put back in the nearest undisturbed ground.What may be the real situation was apparent as the sites of up to six different burials were revealed along the trenches being dug. The suggestion now is that the present fourteenth century church is longer than an earlier church standing on the site. This means that where we were now digging wasn’t originally an area inside the church at all. It was part of the churchyard next to the church. Unlike any remains found on a building site, however, nothing should be removed from the site. We went back to the ecclesiastical court which had given us permission to do the work in the first place. It agreed that we should reverently lift any remains which would be disturbed by the new walls and then prayerfully bury them again on the same spots.