ARCHEOLOGISTS who discovered graves that are 1500 years old say the ancient cemetery will shed light on what life was like when Britain was part of the Roman Empire.

Army personnel were amazed to discover that their barracks have sat just one metre from an ancient burial site.

Permission was granted to exhume 14 bodies near the former Corunna Barracks in Ludgershall, which had laid untouched since around 364 AD.

Despite the significant time lapse, experts made the surprise discovery that nearly all of the people were buried while wearing hob nailed boots or shoes.

One was even buried with a coin minted during the reign of Roman emperor Emperor Flavius Valens between 364 and 378 AD. It is likely to have been issued from Trier, London or Arles.

Each grave faced directly North-South or East- West and contained just one body. Wooden planks fashioned like a coffin had been used for the burial.

A ditch that dates back to the Middle Iron Age has also been discovered, from approximately 550 to 400 BC and could show that there was once a settlement in the area close to fertile soils.

Project Manager Si Cleggett said: “The chance survival of this small group of late Romano-British burials will enhance our understanding of the area in the waning years of the Roman occupation. There are few records of Roman find-spots in and around Ludgershall but one of the Roman villas recorded at Shoddesdon Grange, Thruxton, Ragged Appleshaw and Redenham may have served as the administrative focus of large farming estates possibly including the Ludgershall area.

“I often hear how mesmerised American tourists are by our incredibly rich heritage − I have recently wondered just how amazed American World War II troops drinking coffee in their canteen would have been to know their boots were only half a metre above the remains of people who lived there in the last days of Roman Britain!”

Major General Richard Wardlaw OBE, the senior Army officer responsible for the Army Basing Programme, said: “The scale of the archaeology found at our ABP sites has been truly amazing, ranging from an insight into life 1,000 years before Stonehenge right up to World War 1 training tunnels and World War 2 artefacts. These latest finds shine a light into yet another era in the history of this part of Wiltshire and we are all keen to know the conclusions of Wessex Archaeology’s investigations.”

Work will now continue to carry out research into the discoveries before archaeologists publish a full report later in the year.