By Maureen Osborne
In a recent article published by Antiquity, a new forensic technology has revealed that a skull taken from a grave unearthed in 1901 is that of a woman of black ancestry. The grave in Bootham, York, was the site of Eboracum, a Roman stronghold in forth century AD. It was not unusual for African males to migrate from Roman North Africa with the Roman Army; however those migrations typically did not include women and children.
Upon discovery, the stone sarcophagus contained items that were normally found in the graves of wealthy individuals (ivory bangles, perfume bottle and mirror) who had access to tradesmen. Her skeleton revealed that she was between 18 and 23, did not live a strenuous life and minerals in her teeth could be traced to North Africa. The skull measurements establish an African connection. Also in the grave, was a bone fragment, inscribed a phrase that translates into “Hail sister, may you live in God” which suggests Christian belief.
Dubbed the “Ivory Bangle Lady” for the African ivory and Yorkshire jet bangles found in her grave along with other items will be on display at the Yorkshire Museum.
A LADY OF YORK: Migration, Ethnicity and Identity in Roman Britain, published in the March edition of the journal Antiquity. The Yorkshire Museum’s “Ivory Bangle Lady” will be on display in the exhibit, Roman York: Meet the People of the Empire, which opened on August 1, 2010.♥
Maureen Osborne continues to work on her historical romance.