Previous to the new discovery, scientists had excavated burials on Newarke Street, located to the east and north of the present site where the Roman cemetery was uncovered; these burials seemed to follow Christian traditions, in which the bodies were buried in a supine position, facing east with little or no goods buried alongside them, the researchers said.
"Unusually the 13 burials found during the recent excavations, of mixed age and sex, displayed a variety of burial traditions, including east to west and north to south-oriented graves," said Thomas, "many with personal items such as finger rings, hairpins, buckles and hob-nailed shoes."
For instance, in paganlike tradition one grave was facing north-south with the body positioned on its side in a semi-fetal position. The head had been removed and placed near the feet alongside two pottery jars, likely for offerings for the journey to the afterlife, Thomas said. "This would seem to be a very pagan burial," he said.
Nearby was a Christian burial in which the individual was facing east and wearing a polished finger ring made of jet on the left hand. The design etched onto the ring, "IX," may have been an artistic design or could represent an early Christian symbol taken from the initials of Jesus Christ in Greek, known as Iota-Chi, or IX. "If so this would represent rare evidence for a personal statement of belief from this period," Thomas said in a statement.