Archive for June, 2010

Graveyard of the Gladiators Found in York England

on Jun.16, 2010, category Tech News

Researchers have identified what they believe may be the world’s only well-preserved Roman gladiator cemetery.

Skeletons featuring marks which could have resulted from a violent death were found during an ongoing archaeological investigation in York.

Archaeologists have been examining some 80 skeletons unearthed at the site in Driffield Terrace, just west of the centre of York, over the past decade.

Kurt Hunter-Mann, a field officer at York Archaeological Trust, said: “At present our lead theory is that many of these skeletons are those of Roman gladiators.

“So far there are a number of pieces of evidence which point towards that interpretation or are consistent with it.”

Mr Hunter-Mann, who is leading the investigation, said bite marks on one skeleton had helped the team reach their current theory.

He said: “One of the most significant items of evidence is a large carnivore bite mark – probably inflicted by a lion, tiger or bear – an injury which must have been sustained in an arena context.”

Mr Hunter-Mann said nearly all the skeletons, which date from the late first century AD to the 4th century AD, had features consistent with gladiators, in that they were male, strong and above average height.

He said: “Other important pieces of evidence include a high incidence of substantial arm asymmetry – a feature mentioned in ancient Roman literature in connection with a gladiator; some healed and unhealed weapon injuries; possible hammer blows to the head – a feature attested as a probable gladiatorial coup de grace at another gladiator cemetery, Ephesus, in Turkey.”

The arm asymmetry would be consistent with the fighters’ weapons training that had already started in teenage years, he added.

All the individuals were buried with some respect, with the most impressive send-off given to a tall man aged between 18 and 23, who had been decapitated by several sword blows to the neck.

He was buried in a large oval grave some time in the third century, alongside what appear to have been the remains of hefty joints of meat from at least four horses, which were possibly eaten at the funeral.

Forensic anthropologists at the University of Central Lancashire have also been researching the remains.

Dr Michael Wysocki, senior lecturer in forensic anthropology and archaeology at the university, said: “These are internationally important discoveries. We don’t have any other potential gladiator cemeteries with this level of preservation anywhere else in the world.”


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