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Ancient Shrewsbury sacred site 'oldest of its kind'

image copyrightSarah Hart
image captionThe church's grounds could be the country's oldest continuously used sacred site

Archaeologists say a sacred burial site uncovered in Shrewsbury in February is over 4,000 years old.

They say the site, which was discovered at a Greek Orthodox Church, may be the country's oldest-known continuously used sacred ground.

Finds suggest it has been used during every era since the late Neolithic period.

Carbon dating of a wooden post extracted during the dig showed it was placed in the ground in 2,033 BC.

Archaeologists expected the post to be Anglo-Saxon.

Other finds on the Oteley Road site included a calf, a pig and a dog that died while giving birth.

image copyrightSarah Hart
image captionArchaeologists initially thought this 4,000 year old post might have been Anglo-Saxon

"The dates have shocked us all," said lead archaeologist Janey Green.

"It appears the current Medieval church is built over the site of an ancient pagan burial ground that's been in use from the late Neolithic period through the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and through to today.

"The only other British site of a Christian church that is known to date back to the late Neolithic period is at Cranborne Chase, in Dorset, but it is a Norman ruin."

The church was bought by the Greek Orthodox Church from the Church of England in 1994, and archaeologists began investigating after Shropshire Council gave consent for housing in the area.

image copyrightSarah Hart
image captionGarment pins have been found at the site

Father Stephen Maxfield, the church priest, said: "Who would have thought that this little church [would turn] out to have a history of great significance?

"From the moment we first saw this building as a crumbling ruin... we thought it was a very special building. Now we know that it is."

Related Topics

  • Archaeology
  • Shropshire Council
  • Shrewsbury

More on this story

  • Ancient animal burial site at Shrewsbury church