Yarn strand unravels archaeological find

St Mungo's asks Reading residents to knit woolly hats

The discovery of one tiny piece of wool in an archaeological dig in Maryport may have unlocked an important piece of history.

According to the Times & Star, the scrap of yarn was found at Camp Farm last summer and has led to the unearthing of what appears to be a Christian church.

Dating back to the 5th or 6th century, experts believe that the site had been positioned so it could be seen at Whithorn, which is commonly known as the cradle of Christianity in Scotland and is located along the other side of the Solway Firth.

While the dig may have happened a few months ago now, it was revealed exclusively to a Maryport audience at Senhouse Museum this week.

Site director Tony Wilmott told the newspaper that volunteers discovered what seemed to be Christian long cist graves, as well as fragments of bone and a tooth.

But, despite much forensic work they were unable to carbon date the remains.

"However, one of the graduate students, Lauren Proctor, discovered a small fragment of textile while processing soil samples from one of the graves," Mr Wilmott said.

He added: "It was a tiny piece of wool no bigger than my fingernail. The remarkable thing was that it has survived all these centuries."

After radiocarbon dating the fleece archaeologists concluded that it was most likely sheared between AD 240 and AD 340, placing it in the late Roman era.
Commenting on this exciting discovery, dig director Professor Ian Haynes of Newcastle University, described it as big news, in what is already an important historical location.

"The discovery of pits containing altars in 1870 led to a belief that these stones were ritually buried by the Roman army. This is something that became accepted. What we discovered was that the altars were actually buried as ballast to support the large posts used for the church buildings," he explained.

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