The most significant of the feet bones is the cuboid bone. These two drawings show two different types.
same shape has not prevailed.
Since there is so great a difference in structural shape in the living foot, might not a careful examination of skeletal material also enable differences t o be observed ? For instance, there seem always t o have been considerable difficulties for archaeologists when confronted wit h cemeteries of th e Saxon period. Did the inhabitants of Britain before the incursion of the Saxons have an established shape of foot, and could this shape be traced, and perhaps distinguished from a Saxon shape?
I was given the opportunity to examine the burials from the Saxon period cemetery at Butlers Field, Lechlade, in Gloucestershire, and quite soon i t could be seen tha t two shapes were emerging. At this point I must point out that it is extremely rare to find a completely excavated foot, let alone a pair; however it is the larger of the bones that are th e mor e diagnostic , an d thes e mor e frequently are present, the apparent splaying of the metatarsals in these illustrations is caused by the fact that they are no longer bound together as in life by ligaments and tendons.
Comparin g th e overal l structure s shown in the top two photos overleaf, it is easy to discern a considerable difference. The ankle/heel bones have recognisable variations, but the bone which I find the most useful is the 'cuboid' bone, the bone on the outside of the foot between the heel-bone and the 5th metatarsal (the little toe). In what I term the 'local' (i.e. Pre-Saxon) foot - see the drawing above - the cuboid bone is indeed cuboid whereas in all Saxon feet it is more a quadrilateral with a very short outer border. It is obvious that these differing shapes are a formative factor in the outer border of the foot; other bones have their characteristic shapes, but the cuboid is always the first I look for and hope to find.
A real breakthrough occurred when I was asked to do a similar investigation of the burial s excavated nearb y a t Cirencester (Roman Corinium) . One look a t th e feet shown overpage bottom left, shows that the similarity between these and the "local" feet from th e Lechlade cemetery (above) i s unmistakable; of the thirty feet I was able to re-assemble, all save three were of similar type. (Of the three odd ones, two had been beheaded and shared a common grave: they were strangers, from Wiltshire - I came to recognise their feet type later when working at Devizes). But I have little doubt that in the Saxon cemetery at Lechlade, alongside the Saxon newcomers, the descendants of the citizens of Corinium were also buried.
After my wor k a t Lechlade and Corinium, I was able to examine the feet in the Devizes museum, in Wiltshire. Here too was a typical foot structure with significant differences to that in the Cirencester area: it show s i n th e Bronze Age foot from th e barrow at Wilsford South (G51), shown overleaf, bottom right. This shape recurred again i n th e Saxon cemeteries a t Mildenhall , Collingbourne Ducis and Pewsey to mention only three sites, but at each of these the bone structure of the Saxon feet was the same as that found at Lechlade.
My research so far suggested that if one gained a knowledge of the foot structure of the people in an earlier settlement, it should be relatively easy to differentiate between the ethnic origin of people buried within a later cemetery. I therefore wanted to fill the gap between the Bronze Age and the RomanoBritish period and accordingly requested permission from Prof. Cunliffe to investigate the burials from the excavations of the Iron
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