Numbering 1,142 individuals dating between the late 9th/10th and the late 15th century, the burial assemblage from St Augustine’s in Stoke Quay is not only exceptional in terms of its size and near-continuous chronological sequence, but also because it represents the only medieval port assemblage in the country. It offers the unique opportunity to explore the former lives of a population associated with a major industrial port and one of Ipswich’s poorer suburbs.
OA’s work on the physical anthropology, bone chemistry (stable isotopes) and archaeology identified an assemblage that is distinct from other contemporary, non-port assemblages, in terms of patterns in disease, mortality and physical attributes. The future research potential of this assemblage is considerable, with relevance to a broad range of disciplines, including bioarchaeology, archaeology, clinical medicine, forensics, genealogy, human origins, diversity and evolution.
Three burials from St Augustine’s were chosen to be featured on Channel 4’s Bone Detectives programme. These came from the early, middle and latest phases of burial activity. The earliest skeleton, adolescent male 20292, had not originated from Ipswich or the local area and had been killed by a bladed assault to their neck.
Middle adult (26-35 years) female skeleton 22989 from the middle phase of the cemetery, had a severely disfigured spine, caused by tuberculosis. This individual had features which pointed to a non-caucasoid ancestry, but chemical analysis (isotopes) indicated that they were from the locality.
Finally, the latest skeleton, 21289, a 60+ years male, buried in the nave of the church, had knife cut marks which had opened up the spine all the way down from the neck down to the base. This is a spectacular and perplexing discovery which is without known parallel.