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On top of the Berkshire downs, half a mile from where I used to live, Vic Pocock, a local amateur archaeologist, has been excavating this site for 30 years. These days, he is assisted by other enthusiasts.
He had been alerted to the existence of the settlement by coins and pottery picked up when field walking and also disturbed by the plough. During subsequent excavations, he has continued to find bronze coins (over 800), jewellery and pottery, animal bones, quern stones, burnt flints (used to heat water), pits, postholes and ditches. Over 50 baby skeletons have been excavated, buried all over the site, some in postholes and some in the tops and sides of pits, perhaps to bring good fortune. There were no regulations in Roman times about where babies (aborted, miscarried, stillborn and newly born) had to be interred. Only one adult skeleton has been found, an elderly male, crouched in a shallow grave.
I have worked several of the discovered artefacts into the story – a ring, a jug, spurs for fighting cocks, baby skeletons, a rare fish (Christian) brooch, and a Medusa medallion.
It was on this south-facing hill that I created the pagan settlement of Byden, the birth place of Bron. Regretfully, after more than 30 years of excavation, the site has been closed down. Current thinking in professional archaeological circles is that artefacts should be left in the ground for future generations to discover. With developing technology, most likely they will be able to extract from them much more information than we have.
© 2006 Iris Lloyd
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