Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Alas Poor Yorick: Headless Romano-British Burials

A large Roman cemetery was uncovered in February, revealing 85 burials dating to the 3rd and 4th centuries. After four months of excavation, the results have finally been released. The cemetery is hailed as being one of the most well preserved of this era and also one of the largest for this region. Archaeologists found a number of flints and an iron ring. This leads them to the conclusion that this was the burial location for a rural settlement reliant on farming practices. However, the actual settlement and domestic site has not yet been discovered. Analysis of the skeletal remains has not yet been conducted, but will add invaluable information once it takes place.

A number of the burials found at the Norfolk site were decapitated, with the heads being placed at the feet of the individual. However, this isn't a rare occurrence for sites of this era. For a number of these individuals, the flint artifacts were found where the head of the person should have been located, their head found at the feet. As noted by Watts (1998), decapitation was fairly common for the Roman period with approximately 2.5% of all burials containing decapitated remains. Philpott (1991) noted an increase in this practice in rural communities during the 4th century, associated primarily with sites that are highly romanized but lack evidence of Christianity.