EIGHTEENTH CENTURY skeletons of women and children have been unearthed during construction of a commercial development in Norwich.
Bones were discovered immediately evaluation trenches up to 7m deep were dug as part of an archaeological assessment of the site, a former works of printing and retail company Jarrold & Sons.
Initial finds prompted thoughts of a possible murder victim, but as full skeletons were uncovered, further assessment suggests a late 18th century burial ground. Other former occupants of the site include a 13th century Carmelite Priory and Victorian houses.
Norwich-based geotechnical consultant AF Howland Associates carried out an environmental investigation, involving a detailed historic review and invasive ground assessment. It was retained for the archaeological monitoring.
Adrian Hadley, head of AF Howland's archaeological unit, said: 'The finds have proved to be in an excellent state of preservation and even the coffin nails were found.
'Parts of the skeletal material will be removed for detailed analysis, but the remains will be reburied with full dignity, possibly back on the same site. '
The site's archaeological value has proved far greater than had been anticipated. Material dating back to its earliest period has been recovered. This has affected the construction programme, especially when excavations for main construction uncovered large areas of remains of the priory that are thought to be of national importance.
In the 13th century the area would have been low lying marshland outside the main city boundary. Detailed recording of the wall sections will provide an insight into construction methods used on poor ground during the medieval period.
Environmental assessment of the underlying natural sediments will also reveal the site's history right back to the Ice Age, when ice sheet melt water ripped through the area from the north.