Friday, 18 January 2013

Report from Durham University regarding my Mineralised Human bone finds

Stainsby Beck, Stockton on Tees

Recovery of human remains
report 3040 rev.
on behalf of
Cleveland Police

1. Project background

1.1 A human femur recovered from Stainsby Beck was presented by the finder at Middlesbrough
police station. Cleveland Police contacted Dr Tim Thompson, anthropologist and Senior Lecturer
in Crime Scene Science at Teesside University to examine the bone. Archaeological Services
Durham University were invited to examine the site where the find was made and to prepare a
short report on the discovery.

1.2 A site visit was carried out by Dr Tim Thompson and Claudia Garrido
Varas of Teessid University and Richard Annis of Archaeological Services Durham University on 17th September 2012.

2. The site
(Fig2.1 The bones were found on the west side of the Stainsby beck about 110m north of

east of Earlsway on Teesside Industrial Estate, at OS grid reference NZ 4654 1470. At this point the beck lies in asteep wooded valley between the industrial estate and the northbound carriageway of the A19

3. Circumstances of

3.1 The bone was found by Mr Heath Barnes, who has undertaken excavations at a number of sites
on the Stainsby, Stainton and Ormesby Becks. He has collected a quantity of animal bone in the
course of this work and he presents his findings in a blog called

Mr Barnes found the bone at the inside of a bend on the beck. A photograph on the blog,
reproduced as Figure 1, below, shows the bone when it was found. It was lying in the water at a
point where the stream runs slowly because of a tree trunk across the beck. A quantity of
assorted material has been dumped or has washed up here (Figures 2 & 3).

3.2 Mr Barnes informed police that he had excavated other human bones in the course of his
investigations of a bed of gravel found in the beck valleys. Dr Tim Thopson and Claudia - 
Girrido Varas accompanied officers in a visit to his house and a number of bones were removed

4. Catalogue and condition of the bones

4.1 The assemblage consists of 19 pieces of bone of varying size, listed in the table below. No bone
is complete. All of the bones have been washed and rubbed well to produce a polished
appearance. Bone no. 1 is the find from the beck and the others were collected from Mr
Barnes’s house.

4.2 The bone from the beck is stained, particularly at the proximal (upper) end, which is almost
black in places. Discolouration of this kind can occur when material is absorbed into the surface
of a bone from the environment in which it is buried. Thin beds of dark brown

black organicpeaty material were seen on the sides of the beck close to the find spot. Material like this could  as could cause the sort of staining described here, as could iron from the unoxidised clay subsoils of the area. Many of the bones shown on Mr Barnes’s blog have the same dark colour and this must be a product of conditions in the gravel bed that he has been investigating.

4.3 Almost all of the spongy bone has been lost from the inside of the bone shaft. The surface

somewhat worn and there are three parallel marks on the shaft. These look at first sight like cut
marks but their round bottomed profile, suggest that they are the result of pressure, probably
post mortem.

4.4 The large femur, no. 2, is stained a dark colour and is almost black in places. There is some
concreted calcium inside the shaft of the bone near the broken proximal end. Both of these must be a result of post mortem processes; the concretion is probably recrystallised calciumderived from the decay of the bone itself. This bone is unusually larg                                                                  

4.5 Bone no. 3, the tibia, is less stained than bones 1 and 2 but exhibits a similar degree of erosion

and surface damage. The wall of the shaft is cracked along its length and there is recent tool
damaage on one side. There are three shallow round bottomed grooves on the face of the bone

These are similar to the marks on bone no. 1. They may be related to the excavation or post
excavation cleaning of the bone

No. Bone C1Human Left femur from an adult probably male Both ends missing. Spongy bone almost
entirely missing. Surfaces worn and stained.  355mm

2 Human Right femur from a large well
muscled adult male Very robust. Distal end is damaged and much of the proximal end is missing. The surface is damaged and eroded. Calcium concretion of inside the shaft at the proximal end. 413m 

3 - Human Tibia, adult Both ends missing. Spongy bone almost entirely missing from the interior of the shaft.  206mm

4 - Horse metatarsal Part of shaft, split along its length. 142mm

5 -18 - Human cranium fragments Small pieces without diagnostic elements. 1060mm

19 - Unidentified animal skull Small fragment with a strong bony projection. 42mm

20 - Unidentified animal long bone Small shaft fragment, thick
walled with some spongy bone attached. 55mm

5.Site visit

5.1 The place where the bone was found is shown in Figures 2 and 3. It is a short distance upstream
from the point where a large sewer pipe crosses the valley; Figure 2 was taken from the top of
the block at the west end of the pipe. Though the find spot is on the outside of a meander,
where water flow would usually be quick and deposition limited, the beck is partly blocked here
by a fallen tree. A lot of waste material has been dumped in the valley here and this has
accumulated in the beck. As well as the car wheel and oil drum visible in the photographs,
pantiles, plastic and polypropylene sacks, smaller car parts and other litter were seen around
the find spot. It is clear that the bone was washed downstream to this spot, or fell here from

5.2 The sides of the beck were examined, both above the find spot and for some distance
upstream, in case the bone had been washed out of a burial in the banks. No trace of any
deliberate burial was seen and no more human remains were found.

5.3 Two animal bones were found on the east bank upstream from the find spot. One was on the
clay at the water’s edge and one in a tree stump just above the beck (Figure 4). These isolated
finds are clearly not in their original positions. They are the result of the dumping of food or
butchery waste. This might have happened at any time up to the 20th century, when more
stringent regulation of the treatment of waste and animal products began to take effect. It is
interesting to note that these bones had the same degree of dark staining that is seen in the
other remains discussed here.

6. Conclusion

6.1 The route by which a human bone could have arrived at this spot on the Stainsby beck is

unclear. It is perhaps most likely that it was eroded out of the gravel bed that has been the
subject of Mr Barnes’s research, and carried downstream in a spate. The date of the gravel bed
deposits is not certain. Mr Barnes believes them to be about 20,000 years old.

6.2 All of the bones described here, including the one found in the beck, appear to be old. This
conclusion is based on the degree of loss of spongy bone from inside the shafts, the damaged
external surfaces and the extent of staining. However, the appearance cannot be regarded as
conclusive proof. The possibility that the femur found by Mr Barnes came from an illicit burial
cannot be ruled out.

6.3 The only certain means of determining the age of bone no. 1 would be radiocarbon dating. This
would confirm whether the bone found in the beck is modern, but it would not provide a
precise date. Unfortunately, the dating process would destroy a part of the evid

7. Acknowledgements

7.1 Our thanks are due to Ms Jennifer Jones, Dr Anwen Caffell and Professor Peter Rowley

Conwy of the Department of Archaeology at Durham University, who examined the bones

provided much valuable advice, and to Peter Rowe of Tees Archaeology for some essential
background information.
Richard Annis BA MIfA FSA
Senior Archaeologist
22nd November 2012
Revised in the light of information from Heath Barnes, 14th January 201

Archaeological Services Durham University
South Road

Durham DH1 3LE tel 0191 334 1121 fax 0191 334 1126


Figure 1 Photograph taken by Heath Barnes showing the bone as it was found, reproduced from
his blog at
Figure 2 The site and the find spot, looking south
east from the west end of the sewer pipe. The bone was found on the far side of the beck at the centre of the picture
Figure 3 Looking downstream at the find spot, which is at the far end of the fallen tree trunk.
Note the modern debris dumped in the beck and on the left hand slope.

Figure 4 A cattle metapodial (circled) lying just above water level a short distance upstream from
the spot where bone no. 1 was found


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Please feel free to correct me on any part of my blog, i would also welcome any help that can be offered in correctly identifying some of my fossil finds All the best to all Heath.