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Rare object unearthed during archaeological dig could be early weaving bobbin

Anne Grimshaw, Valerie Wiseman and Alice Lyons at the Long Melford Heritage Centre Picture: JOHN NUNN

Anne Grimshaw, Valerie Wiseman and Alice Lyons at the Long Melford Heritage Centre Picture: JOHN NUNN

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A sheep’s bone with decorated markings unearthed during an archaeological dig in west Suffolk could be an early example of a weaving bobbin, experts have suggested.

The bone which is believed to be an early example of a weaving bobbin Picture: JOHN NUNNThe bone which is believed to be an early example of a weaving bobbin Picture: JOHN NUNN

The sheep’s rear leg bone (metapodials), with incised markings of decoration and graffiti around one end, was found following a dig in the village of Long Melford late last year.

Members of the Long Melford Heritage Centre group first believed the bone to be a whistle or a knife handle, and similar examples have been found on Iron Age and Roman settlements.

John Nunn, district councillor and coordinator of the heritage centre, said no-one can be certain of the object’s use, but the general consensus from experts suggests that the bone is a weaving bobbin and the marks have some meaning relating to the yarn. The object dates back to around 50AD and Mr Nunn said experts believed it to be a Romano British textile bobbin.

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“I believe this to be the earliest example of the weaving industry in this area that is renowned for its textile industries,” Mr Nunn said.

Mr Nunn said a large quantity of sheep and cattle bones were also unearthed during the dig, some with butchery marks indicating that cattle management and processing was an important part of Roman Long Melford’s history.

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Along with the bones, more than 2,500 fragments of Roman and Iron Age pottery were also discovered and were assessed by pottery expert Alice Lyons.

Among the pottery identified were examples of early and late pottery imported from Spain, France and Germany from the Iron Age through to the end of the Roman period.

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Other artefacts included coins, a bronze Roman lady’s hairpin and tweezers.

Mr Nunn added: “I believe this was the first truly investigative excavation within the main Roman town area, and involved the careful trowelling and sieving of more than six tons of soil.”

The Long Melford Heritage Centre, which normally opens in April for the summer months, has had to postpone its opening due to the coronavirus outbreak but Mr Nunn is hopeful that people might get to see the displays this year.

“We put a lot of work into the new displays and were raring to go really,” he said. “So it’s a shame but we’re hoping to open when we get the all-clear.

“Even if it’s September, we’ll open for a month or so.”

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