We dug the foundation trenches for the school’s new building in case there was any important archeological remains there. The idea is that we dig exactly where the foundations are to be put (no more, no less), record what we find, and backfill the trenches when we have finished. The builders then dig them out when they are ready and, hey presto!, no loss of archaeological remains.
The site is red hot one because it is along the side of the main Colchester to London Roman road where there had been many important burials. One of the most famous of these was the tombstone of Roman centurion Facilis. The memorial was discovered in 1868 but unfortunately the records give two different places for its discovery. One of them is where we have just dug. In the event, the ground turned to to have been heavily disturbed in the 19th century in a way which resembled an old archaeological excavation. By way of consolation, all this does at least suggest that this was indeed the spot where Facilis was buried. Nothing is known about the circumstances of the discovery but the tombstone is not alone but sits in the Musuem alongside a lead canister supposedly containing his cremated remains. This suggests an exavation took place when the tombstone was found. The dig would eventually have been backfilled. Perhaps we were digging our trenches through its backfill.