Friday, December 02, 2011

Gladiator skeletons arrive Durham this weekend
1st December 2011

Six human skeletons thought to be the remains of Roman Gladiators go on display at a new visitor attraction in the Centre of Durham this weekend.

The Gladiators: A Cemetery of Secrets exhibition is the result of a joint venture between York Archaeological Trust and Durham County Council. The exhibition occupies the former Visitor Information Centre at Millennium Place and will run until March 31st 2012.

The skeletons, which were the subject of a Channel 4 documentary aired last year, were first uncovered by York Archaeological Trust archaeologists at Driffield Terrace in York during an excavation that ran between 2004 and 2005.  80 burials were excavated at the site, of which 60 were mostly complete skeletons.  Almost all were male and the majority were adults.

An expert from Durham University has played a key role in the latest research into the origins of the Driffield Terrace skeletons.  Teaching fellow in the Department of Archaeology, Dr Anwen Caffell, worked with Malin Holst of York Osteoarchaeology Ltd to review some of the injuries, illnesses and ages of selected skeletons. Their work has helped prove some existing theories, but has also introduced further debate about the evidence.
Says Kurt Hunter-Mann, field officer at York Archaeological Trust who led the original excavation, “The skeletons have been the centre of much global interest over the last year and have been the subject of ongoing debate as to how they came to be lying decapitated in the large cemetery site.

“Opinion still remains divided. Unusual marks on the skeletons, including possible bite marks from large carnivorous animals, fuel the debate that the skeletons could be the remains of gladiators, who lived and fought in York during the Roman occupation.  The exhibition shows all of the evidence, and should help reignite the ‘Were they gladiators?’ debate, as well as inviting visitors to have their say.”

Says Cllr Neil Foster, Cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, “The council is really pleased to be supporting this exciting exhibition and at the heart of the World Heritage Site.

“I sincerely hope that this will be the first of many opportunities for us to work in partnership with York Archaeological Trust and to bring residents and visitors here the chance to come face to face with history in this way.”

The skeletons will be on display at 1 Millennium Place from Saturday 3 December until 31st March 2012.  General admission charges apply, with free unlimited admissions with entry tickets.

Visit for more information about the new exhibition or call 0191 3324041 for information.