Post pits found under York Minster: evidence of the earliest church there?

York Minster post pits

Field archaeologists Ian Milsted and Jim Williams at the dig site at York Minster that hints at Saxon remains. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian

Further light has been shed on the early origins of Christianity in Britain by the discovery of two postholes and a small pit packed with human bones, found within the crypt at York Minster during excavations for a new lift shaft. Our Fellow Maev Kennedy reported the find in the Guardian, saying that there was no dating evidence to prove that the two massive post pits, the thirty skulls and the jumble of bones dumped here by the medieval builders of the present cathedral date from the time of the earliest Christian church on the site, but the finds are overlain by the foundations of the pre-Conquest and Norman churches.

The size of the post pits, according to Jim Williams of the York Archaeological Trust who is working on the site, suggests a very significant structure, located just outside the walls of the Roman basilica. Post-excavation work on the bones and soil samples should reveal more. Annals record that in AD 627 King Edwin of Northumbria and his family were baptised by St Paulinus in a small wooden church, the first minster; several sites have been suggested, and burials and grave markers from the period discovered, but no trace of the structure has yet been found.

From SALON, the e-journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

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