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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 August, 2004, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Workmen uncover medieval graves
The Litten dig site in Newbury
Archaeologists have identified the age and sex of 21 bodies
Archaeologists say they have found a town's largest medieval burial site yet after workmen dug up human remains.

Evidence of 50 burials has been found at the site near the 16th Century Litten Chapel in Newbury, Berkshire.

The dig was started after contractors carrying out road improvements at the junction of Newtown Road and Pound Lane found remains in July.

So far the age and sex of just 21 bodies - seven men, five women and nine children - have been identified.

It is thought the burials relate to the medieval St Bartholomew's hospital, which was founded before 1215 AD.

The Litten dig site in Newbury
About 50 individuals are thought to have been buried at the site
Duncan Coe, archaeological officer for West Berkshire Council, told BBC News Online: "It is a very important find.

"It was a hospital site so there's potential evidence of disease and other ailments which could allow us to retrieve a lot of information about the medieval population of Newbury."

The remains are now to be studied in detail by archaeologists, who already believe one man may have had leprosy.

Angela Boyle, head of human remains at Oxford Archaeology, said of the find: "The majority of the remains were located just 20cm below the base of the existing road.

"They are densely packed and intercutting so defining individual grave cuts has proven difficult.

"No evidence of coffins has been found so it is likely that these people were merely wrapped in shrouds prior to burial."

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