Contractors have stumbled upon an ancient skeleton while digging a sewer trench in Norton-on-Derwent, near Malton. The skeleton is thought to be of either Roman or pre-historic origin.

Yorkshire Water are in the process of installing two new sewers in Norton’s Sutton Street in order to reduce the risk of flooding for those living nearby. The skeleton was found two meters under the road surface in a newly dug trench, and is remarkably intact.

The discovery was not entirely unexpected, as research had marked the site out as a possible Roman cemetery. Findings of other buried skeletons had been documented in the 19 century during the build of the adjacent St. Peter’s Church. A roman road ran south-eastwards from the fort at Malton and the settlement at Derventio (now Norton), following a similar path to the current Langton Road which runs past Sutton Street. Romans did not bury their dead within the confines of their settlements, as they believed this to be unclean, and would have sought out a place on the route out of town to fulfill the purpose.

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Chris Pole, of Northern Archaelogical Associates, an independent heritage consultancy firm, has been monitoring the dig from the offset and led the excavation of the skeleton. Mr Pole has stated that although the site was likely a Roman burial ground, there are also indications that the skeleton may be even older, dating from pre-historic times.

"It was in a crouched or foetal position, possibly mirroring birth", Mr Pole said.

There were also no grave goods found near the body.

The skeleton has been moved to archaeological offices at Barnard Castle, where tests will be carried out to ascertain the age, sex, and, if possible, the cause of death.

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