Viking burial site found

ONE of South Yorkshire's most significant archaeological finds ever has been unearthed during work to build a multi-million pound special school.

Experts have discovered the remains of 35 ancient bodies - thought to be Vikings or Saxons - in a burial site which could date back as far as the fifth century.

They have been found as part of site preparations for the construction of the new North Ridge Community School in Adwick, in the grounds of North Doncaster Technology College.

The first three bodies were found by archaeologists called in to carry out a site survey. The work was intended to make sure nothing of archaeological interest would be destroyed by the building work.

Archaeologists have now recovered 35 bodies in total, believed to be Anglo-Saxon, from what is thought to be an ancient cemetery.

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The graveyard probably dates from between the fifth and ninth centuries AD, when the area was occupied by Saxons and Vikings.

The orientation of the burials, running south-west to north-east, suggests they belong to a non-Christian community.

It has emerged the first remains were discovered two weeks ago, although the announcement of the find was delayed until the extent of the cemetery was established.

Doncaster Council, the Archaeological Research and Consultancy at the University of Sheffield, and South Yorkshire Archaeological Services are now working together to investigate the find.

If the current age estimates prove to be correct, it will be the first cemetery of the period excavated in the whole of South Yorkshire.

ARCUS project manager Richard O'Neill, who is leading the six-person team at the site, said: "This is tremendously exciting - this could be the first Anglo-Saxon burial site found in South Yorkshire.

"Apart from the bodies we have found a lot of artefacts. There has been some pottery. Our range of possible dates is at the moment pretty broad but until we carbon-date the remains we can't really be any more specific."

Construction of the new school is continuing, though the area of the archaeological dig has been cordoned off.

Richard said: "Work is continuing on the school as we dig - we're not actually in the way at the moment!"

Doncaster's Mayor Martin Winter said: "I am delighted to hear that one of our schools is at the heart of such an impressive archaeological find. This is a real coup for Doncaster and a welcome addition to the borough's rich archaeological heritage."