The Saxon Period Burials from Guildown Avenue, Guildford
by Dr Ceri Falys, Osteoarchaeologist, Thames Valley Archaeological Services
During December 2016, TVAS (Thames Valley Archaeological Services) undertook a small excavation of the land to the rear of a property in Guildown Avenue, Guildford in advance of the construction of a new dwelling. Given the close proximity to the notable “Guildown Saxon Execution Cemetery”, located in the garden immediately to the east, it was hoped the investigation would provide new information regarding the western limits of the known cemetery. Six graves were discovered, comprising two phases of burial. These included three furnished “pagan” inhumations (c. mid 6th century), and three later graves which produced radiocarbon dates spanning the 8th and 11th centuries. The later graves were atypical for the time, with regards to both form (S-N aligned, large grave cuts) and contents (all men, each of whom was buried in unusual positions; two graves had multiple skeletons interred, and the unusual re-burial of one man).
Initial hypotheses suggested the deviant graves represented victims of judicial execution. However, osteological analysis could not identify any evidence of the men being subjected to skeletal trauma close to, or after, the time of death. Subsequent isotopic analyses produced interesting and unexpected results, which have resulted in a mystery of who these men were and what brought them to be buried so far from home. While deviant burials in archaeology commonly signal those interred individuals were viewed as “different” or “outsiders” by their communities, it may be possible that although atypical for the Saxon period in Surrey, these men were purposefully buried in this manner, with care and respect by members of their small subsection of the Guildford community.
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For many years RISC has been allowed by the land owners to use the car park on evenings after 6 p.m. and on weekends for free. These are the white marked spaces on the same level as but not directly behind the building. Unfortunately it has now been decided to make this a paid parking area 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and a parking management company has been contracted to control it. As of now the new rules will apply; they are not entirely straightforward.
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