Monument record MYO4291 - Pre and post-Conquest cemetery

Summary

Thirteen graves interpreted as being of pre-Conquest date located during excavation in 2005. These need not be associated with the Church of St Stephen (MYO4290). 105 burials and five empty grave cuts were identified from the cemetery of St Stephen’s church, Fishergate during the same excavation.

Location

Grid reference SE 6072 5146 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire

Map

Type and Period (2)

Full Description

Thirteen graves were interpreted as being of pre-Conquest date. The pottery dating late 10th century, but six of the burials were above features dating to the late 10th–11th centuries; they should perhaps therefore be seen as occurring in the 50 years before the Norman Conquest.
The graves were aligned west-north-west to east-south-east, which was notably different from the alignment of the burials in Phase 8, which varied from east–west to east-north-east/ west-
south-west, suggesting they are of differing periods. Similar changes in alignment relating to phasing have been seen at other sites; for example, at York Minster the pre-Conquest graves were aligned to the underlying Roman buildings while the later burials were aligned to the Anglo-Norman and later cathedral.

Although the foundation date for St Stephen’s church is unknown, the dedication is more common in the post-Conquest period. It has been noted that boundaries seem to have been added to cemeteries at the time when these sites also become places of worship. If the Norman ditch excavated here is seen as relating to the founding of St Stephen’s church, it is of interest that while the Phase 8 burials clearly relate to the ditch, the Phase 6 burials do not. This may imply that the Phase 6 burials pre-date both the church and the associated cemetery boundary ditch.
The Phase 6 burials need not have been associated with a church- no canon laws are known from the period requiring burial in a churchyard.

Three of the graves seem to have been marked, though whether by wooden posts or upright stones is unclear. There were no clear rows or patterns within this group suggestive of deliberate cemetery planning. This is in contrast to the burial rows seen at the pre-11th-century cemetery at York Minster and at the 10th- to 11th-century cemetery at St Andrew’s Fishergate, York. Although there was plenty of land available for burial, some of the graves were located close together. There is one example where a male burial overlies that of a child; as the earlier burial may have been marked at the head end, this seems deliberate. There is also an example of a female and child close to one another; it is impossible to know if this represents the desire to be buried close to a relative. It is also possible that a male burial containing redeposited human bones had disturbed an earlier grave, but as the bulk of this grave was beyond the limits of excavation it is impossible to be sure.

The thirteen graves in Phase 6 exhibited a wide range of mortuary practices. Three burials were definitely in coffins, a further eight were probably coffined, and one had clench bolts indicative of timber above the skeleton. Only one burial seemed to be uncoffined.
Burial practices clearly varied greatly within this cemetery. Similarly diverse burial methods are seen at other pre-Conquest cemeteries, both within York and further afield (those examples within York being the most directly comparable with the Dixon Lane/George Street site). It is clear that the Dixon Lane/George Street pre-Conquest burials fit into a widespread pattern of variable burial rites within a single cemetery seen from the 9th to 11th centuries.

Post-Conquest
105 burials and five empty grave cuts were identified from the cemetery of St Stephen’s church, Fishergate during the same excavation. Fifty-six of the burials were assumed to be in coffins as they were either in rectangular cuts, or the body had a parallel-sided appearance.
For detailed information see the associated reports.


YAT, 2005, ROMAN, ANGLIAN AND ANGLO-SCANDINAVIAN ACTIVITY AND A MEDIEVAL CEMETERY ON LAND AT THE JUNCTION OF DIXON LANE AND GEORGE STREET (Unpublished document). SYO1919.

York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, 2012, Osteological Analysis Dixon Lane and George Street (Report). SYO1922.

2015, Dixons Lane and George St RC dating (Report). SYO1920.

York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, 2016, Osteological Analysis Dixon Lane and George Street (Report). SYO1921.

Sources/Archives (4)

  • --- Unpublished document: YAT. 2005. ROMAN, ANGLIAN AND ANGLO-SCANDINAVIAN ACTIVITY AND A MEDIEVAL CEMETERY ON LAND AT THE JUNCTION OF DIXON LANE AND GEORGE STREET.
  • --- Report: 2015. Dixons Lane and George St RC dating.
  • --- Report: York Osteoarchaeology Ltd. 2016. Osteological Analysis Dixon Lane and George Street.
  • --- Report: York Osteoarchaeology Ltd. 2012. Osteological Analysis Dixon Lane and George Street.

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Feb 7 2017 11:39AM

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