ARCHAEOLOGISTS have been given a rare opportunity to study Quakers from the early 18th century after skeletons were discovered in Hemingford Grey. The former burial ground was discovered during the construction of the flood defence works near Hemingford M

The skull showing the damage done to teeth by the repeated use of a clay pipe.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have been given a rare opportunity to study Quakers from the early 18th century after skeletons were discovered in Hemingford Grey.

The former burial ground was discovered during the construction of the flood defence works near Hemingford Meadow.

The site is believed to be one of the earliest excavated Quaker burial grounds that is no longer is use.

Louise Loe, project leader at Oxford Archaeology, said: "The discovery has afforded the rare opportunity to gain an insight into the lives of an early Quaker population.

"Very few non-conformist burial grounds have been archaeologically excavated to date and, of these, extremely few are as early as the Hemingford Grey burial ground.

"The skeletons provide considerable information about quality of life in 17th and 18th century Hemingford."

Nine of the skeletons were male, five female and two of undetermined sex, and are aged from 18 to more than 50.

One of the more unusual finds included the skeleton of a man who was a pipe smoker. Archaeologists found extreme wear of lower and upper teeth, which they say was caused by the repeated clutching of a clay pipe between his teeth.

Another male skeleton had his lower legs amputated while another skeleton showed signs of the spinal deformity known as scoliosis.

The finds also included pottery dating from the 12th to the 19th century.

INFORMATION: Oxford Archaeology took part in the excavation under the direction of the Environment Agency. For more information, visit www.oxfordarch.co.uk