AstraZeneca reveals findings of archaeological dig as build gets underway at Cambridge


AstraZeneca has announced the findings of archaeological excavations on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which will be home to the company’s new, purpose-built global R&D centre and corporate headquarters from the end of 2016.


The excavations were conducted over an eight month period between July 2014 and March 2015, and were required before building work began on AstraZeneca’s new facility in April 2015. They revealed that the Company’s site on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus was a thriving settlement during the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman period.

The main findings were:

  • Pottery and flint dating back to the Early Neolithic period in the 4th millennium BC.
  • The outline of a Bronze Age enclosure, as well as artefacts such as animal bone, worked flint, metal objects and over 500 pottery shards dating to approximately 1500 to 1100 BC. Metalwork found on the site included tools such as chisels and awls as well as a spearhead, which represent rare and important finds from this period.
  • Evidence of Iron Age settlements, including the remains of a number of structures likely to date back to this period between 600 and 100 BC.
  • A dense pattern of ditches, enclosures and postholes indicating building plots associated with Roman settlement activity. Artefacts discovered here included pottery and coins suggesting that there was a settlement at the site for much of the Romano-British period, from the first to the fourth century AD.
  • Nearly 6,000 fragments of pottery, including shards from jars, dishes, flagons and other large vessels originating from the local area and from Central and Southern France and the Rhineland.
  • A large quantity of metalwork, including Roman coins ranging in date from the first to the fourth century AD, an iron cleaver and personal items such as a copper alloy bracelet and military buckle.
  • Two small cemeteries, one dating to the first or second century AD and containing four cremation burials in pottery vessels and one, made up of five graves, dating to the fourth century AD. Among the personal effects found in the graves was a rare, fully intact glass unguent bottle likely imported from the Mediterranean (pictured above).

The excavations were carried out by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit. All artefacts discovered during the dig are currently being analysed by specialists and a full report detailing the findings will be submitted to Cambridge City Council in early August.

AZ Bird's eye view Cambridge

AstraZeneca’s new global R&D centre and corporate headquarters in Cambridge will be home to approximately 2,000 employees and will become the company’s largest centre for oncology research, as well as housing scientists focused on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, respiratory, inflammation and autoimmune diseases and conditions of the central nervous system. It will also be home to a joint research centre, which will see Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK scientists working side-by-side with AstraZeneca’s high throughput screening group.


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AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection and neuroscience diseases.