We are dedicating today to the completely unexpected discovery of a body in an oven being excavated for the Roman Project in 2006. We have John Jollies to thank for his vivid memories of this day.
Our story begins with Lynn Hollyer, one of the volunteers excavating the oven feature. She noticed bone and alerted John. He thought it might be part of a human femur and this was soon confirmed by the Human Remains Team. The big question is ‘Was this an attempt at cremation or something more sinister: murder?’ The body had been burnt at a low temperature and had been raked about. The feet were missing. The clay of the oven had then been collapsed on top, effectively sealing and concealing the act. We know that there were several episodes where order broke down at various times during the 4th century. A coin dating between 318-322 AD recovered from one of the ducts leading to the oven may support this. Nothing can be proved but could our ‘body in the oven’ have been a victim of one such breakdown in civil order? Did the long-suffering labour-force of the time see an opportunity for revenge and be rid of an unscrupulous bailiff?
Martin then took on the task of applying to the Home Office for permission to excavate the human remains. Once gained Zannah and others took on the task, admirably taking time to explain their findings to the many visitors, including the press.
John remembers the Coroner (who was also a member of the police force) visiting personally to view the human remains. He agreed it was the site of a probable murder, but decided against launching an investigation since the perpetrators had been dead for over 1600 years!