Yewden ‘Brothel’ Followup

Remember that claimed brothel site with the 97 infant burials from the Yewden Villa in Hambleden? Here’s an incredibly interesting followup:

ARCHAEOLOGISTS investigating a mass burial of 97 infants were ‘horrified’ to find what they believe to be the skeleton of a dismembered child.

Chiltern Archaeologists suspect the site in Hambleden could have been a Roman brothel – where unwanted babies were systematically killed.

Dr Jill Eyers, who lives in Lane End, said the group has discovered cut marks on the bones of one of the babies.

She added: “These were knife marks and would represent a dismembering of this infant. We are horrified to say the least and are now about to closely check all other infant skeletons.

“If dismembered this could be signs of a ritual activity at this site. This is turning more sinister by the minute.”

Dr Eyers said ritual activity was not unusual for Roman Britain, citing a ‘head cult’ which was present in St Albans in Hertfordshire.

The group has been carrying out tests on excavation finds from 1912 at the Yewden villa.

An examination of the remains, which were rediscovered in boxes kept at Buckinghamshire County Museum, revealed the babies died at 40 weeks gestation.

A BBC documentary set to air on August 19, called ‘Digging for Britain’, will feature the Hambleden discoveries.

Presenter Alice Roberts was so enthused by the project that she has volunteered to join the Chiltern Archaeology team.

via: Skeleton of ‘dismembered’ child discovered by Chiltern Arcaeologists | Bucks Free Press

It’s unfortunate that we’re not given more details about where these purported cut marks were. It’s worth pointing out in this context that child sacrifice was not unknown in Roman Britain, e.g.:

In a few cases, evidence seems to point towards child sacrifice. At the temple at Springfield, Kent, excavated in the 1960s, foundation sacrifices of paired babies were found at all four corners of the temple. The burials took place at different times, indicating that the practice was repeated as the temple was extended. Similarly, excavations in the 1970s in the centre of Cambridge included a subterranean shrine and ritual shafts, of which no fewer than 12 contained newborn babies in baskets, several of them buried with small dogs. The shafts seem to have been left open for about 200-300 years.

via: Allison Taylor, “Burial with the Romans”, British Archaeology

Clearly this is still a developing story … we’ll see if they still cling to the ‘brothel’ theory …

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One thought on “Yewden ‘Brothel’ Followup

  1. When I saw that I found myself wondering if there were any chance that it was an in utero dismemberment. Sorenus, I believe, gives instructions for how to dismember the child in the case of macrosomia or dystocia, and we know it was a controversial practice but one that was carried out nonetheless.

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