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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The skeletal remains of a Roman aristocrat were found in a hidden lead coffin

The remains of a Roman nobleman have been discovered by archaeologists in northern England.

The unidentified woman’s remains, believed to be over 1,000 years old, were found in a lead coffin in the hidden city cemetery of Leeds last year.

The remains of 62 people have been excavated at a previously unknown archaeological site near Garforth. Men, women, and 23 children were buried at the site discovered by archaeologists.

The dead are believed to be those of the late Roman and early Saxon eras, as burial customs from both periods have been found in the tombs, according to a Leeds City Council press release on Monday.

David Hunter, the chief archaeologist at West Yorkshire Joint Services, told CNN on Monday that the discovery came after a commercial developer applied for planning permission from the council.

An archaeological survey of the site – the exact location has not been disclosed – led to the discovery of the remains last spring.

“We definitely got more than we bargained for,” Hunter told CNN. He said his team had reason to believe the site might be of archaeological interest, having found Roman and Anglo-Saxon structures nearby during previous excavations. “But we didn’t expect to find a cemetery with 62 residents at this location,” he added.

The team said that evidence of burial practices found at the site might indicate early Christian beliefs concurrent with Saxon burials. They also found personal items such as knives and pottery.

West Yorkshire/Leeds City Council Joint Service
Describing the lead coffin as “extremely rare,” said Hunter, “The tin sheets were the lining of the larger wooden coffins, so this is a very high-status Roman body.”

The casket also contains jewelry, which adds to the team’s suspicions about the person buried inside.

Archaeologists hope the 1,600-year-old burial can help them understand the meaningful and largely undocumented transition between the fall of the Roman Empire around AD 400 and the founding of the later Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

Wooden objects nearly 2,000 years old suggest the Romans used sex toys, according to a study.
According to a press release, West Yorkshire was in the Kingdom of Elmet after the Romans left England, which lay between the Wharf and Don valleys, the York Valley, and the Pennines.

Even after the departure of the Romans, many areas, including Elmet, continued to display elements of Roman culture – along with the Anglo-Saxons. This lasted about 200 years.

Hunter described the excavation as “remarkable” and said in a press release: “This can be a significant find for what we understand about the development of ancient England and Yorkshire.

“The existence of two communities using the same burial site is highly unusual, and whether or not their uses of this cemetery overlap will determine the significance of the find.”

West Yorkshire/Leeds City Council Joint Service
The remains will undergo testing and analysis, including carbon dating, which the team hopes will help determine the exact time frame and details about the individual’s diet and origins.

Excavations of the site were partly prompted by the fact that previous excavations had uncovered late Roman stone buildings and a small number of Anglo-Saxon-style buildings in the nearby area. The results are only now being published because the site had to be secured for the first tests to be carried out.

Kylie Buxton, site manager, said in a press release: “It’s every archaeologist’s dream to work on a ‘unique’ site, and overseeing these excavations is definitely a career highlight for me.”

Once the analysis of the find is complete – a process Hunter says could take a year or two – the coffin is expected to be displayed at the Leeds City Museum.

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