University of Leicester archaeologists have uncovered a trove of relics and remains at Chapel of St Morrell in Leicestershire.
Some relationships last a lifetime — and University of Leicester archaeologists have Found that they can last even longer after unearthing two skeletons at a lost chapel in Leicestershire that have been holding hands for 700 years.
The happy couple declined to be parted by death when they were discovered by a team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) working with local volunteers during an excavation.
Archeologists believe the Chapel of St. Morrell, which overlooks the small village of Hallaton in east Leicestershire, was used from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries.
Though historical accounts in the intervening centuries had long referred to a chapel in Hallaton (the earliest mention dates to 1532), it was only recently that local historian John Morrison researched into its location and suggested Hare Pike Bank, the site of Hallaton’s Easter celebrations.
Specialists from the Hallaton Fieldwork Group conducted a geophysical survey of the area and discovered a 36-meter-square boundary with features inside it, spurring a 4-year excavation project by that group, along with the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS)
The team of researchers uncovered the walls and tiled floors of the church, as well as fragments of stone masonry, plaster and lead from the windows.
They also discovered numerous silver pennies, dating to between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, which allowed them to estimate when the chapel was in use.
Also, a pilgrim badge inscribed with “Morrell” found within the chapel walls supported the theory that the chapel was a site of pilgrimage during the medieval period.
On the north side of the site, the archeologists found a burial ground, from which they have excavated a total of 11 skeletons so far; they expect they will discover more.
Using radiocarbon dating, all have been dated to the fourteenth century, and all were oriented east-west, according to Christian custom at the time.
2 of the skeletons, belonging to a man and a woman, had been placed side by side in the same grave with their arms crossed together.
While double graves in themselves are not too unusual (as Vicki Score, ULAS project manager, said in a statement: “We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester where a couple has been buried together in a single grave”),
The archeologists are puzzled as to why the skeletons were buried at the chapel, instead of in the cemetery at the church in Hallaton.
The analysts speculate that the chapel could have served as a special burial place at the time, or that the couple (and the other people buried at the chapel) could have been refused burial at the church for some reason.
They could have been foreigners or offenders, for example, or they could have suffered from some ailment or disease.
Though its most active years may have been during the Middle Ages, evidence found near the “lost” chapel suggests that use of the hillside site stretches out all the way back to Roman times, more than 2,000 years ago.
In particular, archeologists found a square ditch around the site, indicating that it might have originally been the site of a Roman sanctuary.
In addition, the chapel site is located only a few hundred meters from an Iron Age shrine where thousands of coins and silver objects, including a Roman cavalry helmet, were ritually buried.