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Reconstruction from the skull found in 1901 at Sycamore Terrace, York. Drawing for Readiung University by Aaron Watson (2008)

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Presentation on theme: "Reconstruction from the skull found in 1901 at Sycamore Terrace, York. Drawing for Readiung University by Aaron Watson (2008)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Reconstruction from the skull found in 1901 at Sycamore Terrace, York. Drawing for Readiung University by Aaron Watson (2008)

2 Reconstruction drawing of the funeral of the ivory bangle lady (copyright 2008 Aaron Watson, University of Reading)

3 All evidence (unusual burial rite, unusual ancestry, strontium and oxygen isotope data) taken together can make a convincing case for an incomer to Roman York who was of high status. The ‘ivory bangle lady’ was buried with rich grave goods made from both local and exotic materials.... In cosmopolitan Eboracum, which had been home to Severus and his troops nearly 200 years earlier, perhaps her appearance was not that unusual. A similar case of a high status woman buried in a lead sarcophagus and with jet artefacts, for whom isotope analyses indicated non-British origins, is known from fourth-century Roman London. A Lady of York: migration, ethnicity and identity in Roman Britain (Leach, Eckardt, Chenery, Muldner and Lewis, Dept of Archaeology, University of Reading) – published in Antiquity Vol 84, Number 323 (2010) This series of images showing the skull and how the lady might have looked was created by Aaron Watson of the University of Reading (copyright Yorkshire Museum)

4 New forensic techniques in archaeology reveal existence of high status Africans living in 4th Century AD York A picture of multi-cultural Britain in 4th Century AD has been revealed using the latest forensic techniques in archaeology. The new research, published in the March issue of the journal Antiquity, demonstrates that Roman York of the period had individuals of North African descent moving in the highest social circles. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the research used modern forensic ancestry assessment and isotope (oxygen and strontium) analysis of Romano-British skeletal remains such as the 'Ivory Bangle Lady', in conjunction with evidence from grave goods buried with her. The ancestry assessment suggests a mixture of 'black' and 'white' ancestral traits, and the isotope signature indicates that she may have come from somewhere slightly warmer than the UK. Taken together with the evidence of an unusual burial rite and grave goods, the evidence all points to a high status incomer to Roman York. It seems likely that she is of North African descent, and may have migrated to York from somewhere warmer, possibly the Mediterranean. From a press release by the Yorkshire Museum, 1 st March 2010 Skull of the ‘ivory bangle lady’ (Yorkshire Museum)

5 Eboracum (York) was both a legionary fortress and civilian settlement, and ultimately became the capital of Britannia Inferior. York was also visited by two Emperors, the North-African-born Emperor Septimius Severus, and later Constantius I (both of whom died in York). All these factors provide potential circumstances for immigration to York, and for the foundation of a multicultural and diverse community. From a press release by the Yorkshire Museum, 1 st March 2010 Africans in Roman York?

6 The Ivory Bangle Lady was a high status young woman who was buried in Roman York (Sycamore Terrace). Dated to the second half of the fourth century, her grave contains jet and elephant ivory bracelets, earrings, pendants, beads, a blue glass jug and a glass mirror. The most famous object from this burial is a rectangular openwork mount of bone, possibly from an unrecorded wooden casket, which reads 'Hail, sister, may you live in God', indicating Christian beliefs.... The Times 27 th February 2010 Sycamore Terrace today – Google Streetview The bone mount

7 February 27, 2010 Analysis of Roman grave reveals that York was a multicultural society by Steve Bird Archaeologists have discovered that wealthy black Africans lived in Roman Britain in one of the country’s earliest examples of multiculturalism. Scientific research techniques have established that a lavish grave containing a woman’s skeleton, an ivory bangle, perfume bottle, mirror and jewellery, belonged to a North African member of York’s high society in the 4th century. Scientific analysis of isotopes from the teeth revealed that water she drank during her childhood had contained minerals likely to have been found in North Africa. Skull measurements have also established that the “Ivory Bangle Lady” was black or of mixed race. Her sarcophagus, which was made of stone, a sign of immense wealth in Roman Britain, was discovered in 1901 in Bootham, York. The city was then a legionary fortress and civilian settlement called Eboracum, founded by the Romans in AD The grave goods of the ‘ivory bangle lady including a bone openwork mount, beads, earrings and pendant, blue glass jug, blue glass bead bracelet, glass mirror, jet and ivory bracelets. (copyright York Museums Trust).

8 ‘Multi-cultural Britain is not just a phenomenon of more modern times. Analysis of the ‘Ivory Bangle Lady' and others like her, contradicts common popular assumptions about the make up of Roman-British populations as well as the view that African immigrants in Roman Britain were of low status, male and likely to have been slaves. It helps paint a picture of a Roman York that was hugely diverse and which included among its population, men, women and children of high status from Romanised North Africa and elsewhere in the Mediterranean.’ Dr Hella Eckardt, Senior Lecturer at the University of Reading, quoted in ‘History Today’, March Ivory and jet bangles found in a grave from Sycamore Terrace, York. (Gareth Budd, copyright The Yorkshire Museum)

9 African origin of Roman York's rich lady with the ivory bangle Re-examination of skeletons shows greater population mix than expected. Maev Kennedy, Friday 26 th February 2010 One of the richest inhabitants of fourth century Roman York, buried in a stone sarcophagus with luxury imports including jewellery made of elephant ivory, a mirror and a blue glass perfume jar, was a woman of black African ancestry, a re-examination of her skeleton has shown. Now, 16 centuries after her death, her skeleton is helping prove the startling diversity of the society in which she lived. "We're looking at a population mix which is much closer to contemporary Britain than previous historians had suspected," Hella Eckhardt, senior lecturer at the department of archaeology at Reading University, said. "In the case of York, the Roman population may have had more diverse origins than the city has now...."This skull is particularly interesting, because the stone sarcophagus she was buried in, and the richness of the grave goods, means she was a very wealthy woman, absolutely from the top end of York society," Eckhardt said. Blue glass jug found in a grave from Sycamore Terrace, York. (Gareth Budd, copyright The Yorkshire Museum)

10 African Roman living in Stratford 1,700 years ago The 1,700 year old male skeleton of African descent has been discovered buried in Stratford-upon-Avon and indicates that people from Africa have been living in Warwickshire for far longer than previously thought. One of the many theories is that the man was a former Roman soldier who chose to retire in Stratford about 1,700 years ago. 26 th January 2011

11 Stuart Palmer of Warwickshire County Council's 'Archaeology Warwickshire' is studying the find, and said: "African skeletons have previously been found in large Romano-British towns like York and African units are known to have formed part of the Hadrian's Wall garrison, but we had no reason to expect any in Warwickshire and certainly not in a community as small as Roman Stratford." Stuart went on to describe the find: "The skeletal remains revealed that the man was heavily built and the bones in his central spine showed he was used to carrying heavy loads. Curved dental wear in the upper jaw was probably related to a task he regularly performed with his teeth. An injury to his shoulder must have been all the worse for his arthritis which was also evident in his hips and lower back. Before he died he suffered from a severe inflammation of the right shin and a painful infection from a dental abscess made his last moments a misery. His teeth showed that his childhood was plagued by disease or malnutrition, but there was no evidence for the cause of death.“ (from Warwickshire County Council website May 2011) Archaeology Warwickshire African man living in Stratford 1,700 years ago Tiddington Road, where the skeleton was found, as it is today. (Google Streetview)

12 "He could have been a merchant, although, based on the evidence of the skeletal pathology it is probably more likely that he was a slave or an army veteran who retired to Stratford.“ (Stuart Palmer of Archaeology Warwickshire) Investigation into the man’s background is continuing and analysis of oxygen and strontium isotopes within his teeth might shed further light on his early life, but there is currently no funding available for such work. Without this, his story, which is one that stirs the imagination, may remain forever a mystery. 26 th January 2011

13 Tombstone of Victor the Moor (a North African) from South Shields (Tyne and Wear). Victor is shown lying on a couch holding a cup and is offered another by his servant. Photo Simon I Hill, Tyne and Wear Museums Victor was a young man from the province of Mauretania in north Africa. His tombstone was found at South Shields and it tells us that he came to Britain as the slave of a soldier named Numerianus. Victor was given his freedom, but the poor fellow was only 20 when he died. (c) York Archaeological Trust 2007

14 According to the Scriptores Historiae Augustae – late Roman biographies of Emperors, ” Septimius Severus, the Libya-born emperor who spent his last three years in what was then a remote province, had been inspecting Hadrian’s Wall. He had just defeated the wild Caledonians who lived on the other side and, being very superstitious, was hoping for a good omen. He was far from pleased to encounter a black soldier flourishing a garland of cypress boughs. Sacred to the underworld god Pluto, the cypress could mean only one thing to a Roman: death. Severus was troubled, not only by the ominous nature of the garland, but also by the soldier’s ‘ominous’ colour. ‘Get out of my sight!’ he shouted. The soldier replied sardonically: ‘You have been all things, you have conquered all things, now, O conqueror, be a god!’ Matters were hardly improved when, wishing to make a propitiatory sacrifice, Severus was provided with victims who also happened to be black. Peter Fryer, Staying Power 1984 However, as Fryer points out, the reliability of the Scriptores is questionable and they may have been made up. Nevertheless, the fact that later Roman writers told this story suggests they thought it likely that some soldiers in Britain had been black.

15 Among 350 human skeletons found in an excavation at York in –the greatest number yet exhumed in any Romano-British cemetery – were several of men whose limb proportions suggest that they were black Africans. Peter Fryer, Staying Power 1984 From

16 The Roman fort at Burgh-by-Sands (ancient Aballava) lay at the western end of Hadrian’s Wall in Cumbria. The site was occupied from around the second to fourth centuries AD. Our evidence for this unit consists of an inscription found in 1934 at the village of Beaumont two miles east of Burgh-by-Sands on the banks of the River Eden and a passage in the Notita Dignitatum, a Roman list of officials and dignitaries. The Beaumont inscription, which is written in the stylised Latin of a standard Roman military inscription, was carved into an altar stone dedicated to the god Jupiter (king of the gods). It reads: “To Jupiter Best and Greatest and the Majesty of our two emperors, to the genius (guardian spirit) of the numerus (unit) of Aurelian Moors, Valerianus’ and Gallienus’ own, Caelius Vibianus, cohort-tribune in charge of the above-mentioned numerus, [set up this altar] through the agency of Julius Rufinus, senior centurion.” Dr Richard Benjamin of the University of Liverpool, in British Archaeology 77, July 2004 The ‘Aurelian Moors’ of Burgh-by-Sands Aballava fort

17 As the name Aurelianorum suggests the unit was named in honour of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD ), recently popularised in the film Gladiator by Richard Harris. It is unlikely that the unit was formed just to be placed in one of the Empire’s farthest postings, and they had probably already seen active service before their posting to Burgh-by-Sands. More than likely the unit will have been blooded in battles in Germany (Germania) and the Danube (Dacia), where inscriptions mention a unit of Moors involved in these campaigns. The Roman Empire was constantly at war during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and therefore many units across the Empire will have been destroyed or weakened by battle. Dr Richard Benjamin of the University of Liverpool, in British Archaeology 77, July 2004

18 Our second piece of evidence is the Notitia Dignitatum, a list of Roman dignitaries that includes the passage, ” prefect of the numerous of Aurelian Moors at Aballava.” Together, these two pieces of evidence firmly place a unit of Moors on Hadrian’s Wall, although the precise date of the occupation at the fort of Aballava is unknown. Their exact number is also unknown, although a small fort like Aballava could hold upwards of 500 men. We do not know where they were stationed before Aballava or where they went afterwards, but we do know that they were there. Dr Richard Benjamin of the University of Liverpool, in British Archaeology 77, July 2004

19 It has been said that the unit was probably mustered before it reached Burgh-by-Sands, possibly in the Danube, and then brought to Britain by the emperor Septimius Severus c AD 208. This is very interesting, as Severus himself was a north African, born at Leptis Magna in Tripolitana, now part of present day Libya. Dr Richard Benjamin of the University of Liverpool, in British Archaeology 77, July 2004

20 Alienated Burgh-by-Sands could also lead Britain into one of the most contested areas of contemporary archaeological thought: ‘Africanisms’ Through domestic items, religious ceremonies, music and oral histories we can see direct relations with past and present African cultures.... So how might we see Africanisms, or African cultural traits, in the material record at Burgh-by-Sands? The most probable examples would be the type of cookware that may have been used. For instance, northern African nomads, in the past and still today, would often use a clay tagine (or tajine), a cooking pot with a conical lid enclosure acting like an oven, used for making meat stews. North African Roman pottery, in the shape of amphorae and red-slipped wares, has already been found in Britain...the majority of examples so far have been found in the south, but this does not mean it is impossible that others will be found elsewhere. Red-slipped ware, on the other hand, was from Tunisia and widely circulated from the 2nd to the 5th century AD, also around the Mediterranean and Rome’s north-west provinces. It has been found in much greater numbers in Britain than north African amphorae and there are examples in the north-west of Britain at the Romano-British settlement of Bowness-on-Solway (Maia), the second largest on Hadrian’s Wall, and just four miles from Burgh-by-Sands. Both these types of Roman pottery were in production and circulated at the same time that the Numerus Maurorum Aurelianorum was stationed in Britain. Dr Richard Benjamin of the University of Liverpool, in British Archaeology 77, July 2004 North African Roman pottery oil lamp found in England


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