George Rolleston (1829-1881) was a contemporary and friend of Charles Darwin and A.L.F. Pitt Rivers and E.B. Tylor. In 1860 he became Linacre Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Oxford University. Rolleston was actively involved with local archaeological excavations in the area. In the 1860s and 70s he continued the work first started in 1865 by J.Y. Akerman, at a local stone quarry at Frilford, which was then in Berkshire. His diary containing his excavation notes are now in the Ashmolean Museum Archives. Much of the work was carried out by local workmen who kept him informed of their discoveries, for example –
Sir I rit to in form you that we shall be at work at the pitt to morow friday if you wold lick to com & William can work for you from your obadent sirvent W Stimpson
William have been at work for you to day as we expected you wold come thear is 3 graves hopend reday for you & I will let you no if any altorrashon.
from your ever obadent servent James Stimpson
Over 123 Romano-British graves were uncovered. Rolleston was particularly interested in collecting the skulls as he believed that these would reveal the identity of the inhabitants of the local area. A great deal of the material uncovered was sent to the Ashmolean Museum and Rolleston began a collection of ‘skull types’.
On November 16th 1867, he gave a talk on the excavations to the members of the Ashmolean Society in Oxford and an article was later published in 1869 (Archaeologia, 42, 417-85). ‘Researches and excavations at an ancient cemetery at Frilford’
This might be the earliest account of settlement in the area around Noah’s Ark and Trendles Field, and it is still used as a reference for the more recent Oxford University excavations.