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Remains of Roman mercenary and beheaded victim found at ancient site in UK


Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a possible Roman mercenary buried with his sword and a decapitated man in Wales.


Remains of Roman mercenary and beheaded victim found at ancient site in UK
This decapitated man, whose head was placed at his feet, was found
in a Romano-British burial [Credit: Rubicon Heritage]

The site where the two men were buried was first discovered the site in the 1960s after the remains of Iron Age roundhouses (800 BC to AD 43) and the Whitton Lodge Roman Villa dating to the Roman period (AD 43 to 410) were found there.




But it has only been recently that an archaeological survey has been able to excavate the area ahead of a road construction project.


Remains of Roman mercenary and beheaded victim found at ancient site in UK
The Whitton Lodge Roman Villa was first discovered in the 1960s
[Credit: Rubicon Heritage]

Excavation project director Mark Collard explained that the possible mercenary, who once stood at 5 foot 9 inches tall, had a "quite peculiar" burial - but in a nice location.


Collard said: "It's in the middle of a field near the Roman villa looking out over the valley and over the sea. It's a great place to be buried."


Remains of Roman mercenary and beheaded victim found at ancient site in UK
A Late Bronze Age crouch burial at the base of the monument
[Credit: Rubicon Heritage]

Remains of Roman mercenary and beheaded victim found at ancient site in UK
A crouched burial found at 5 Mile Lane [Credit: Rubicon Heritage]

Remains of Roman mercenary and beheaded victim found at ancient site in UK
An early medieval skeleton found in burial monument that was first
used during the Bronze Age [Credit: Rubicon Heritage]

The soldier in his 20s, was buried face down, with a long iron sword, a silver crossbow brooch and hobnail boots inside a coffin closed with iron nails.




Researchers dated the find to the late fourth to early fifth centuries AD as indicated by the sword and brooch.


Remains of Roman mercenary and beheaded victim found at ancient site in UK
A quernstone, or a stone used for hand grinding grains, from a Romano-British
field boundary ditch at the site [Credit: Rubicon Heritage]

It's not certain how he died but researchers believe he may have suffered from a middle-ear infection that spread to his skull.


The decapitated victim, who was also in his 20s, had his skull placed at his feet. The remains of wood and iron nails indicate that he was buried in a coffin or a board that had a shroud over it.


Remains of Roman mercenary and beheaded victim found at ancient site in UK
An aerial view of the Bronze Age burial monument that was reused during
medieval times [Credit: Rubicon Heritage]

It is believed that between 2% to 3% of burials at Roman sites include decapitated people, which were likely killed in executions, according to a 2021 study published in Britannia.


Collard believes the practice may have been used to separate the soul from the body or to prevent the body from rising again.


Author: Kirsty Card | Source: Daily Star [April 21, 2022]



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