African Soldier in Roman Stratford?

Not sure why there is such apparent surprise at this sort of thing any more … via the BBC:

A 1,700-year-old skeleton shows that people of African descent have lived in Warwickshire for far longer than was previously thought, experts say.

The skeleton of an African man was discovered buried in Tiddington Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 2009.

Archaeologists said they now believed the man may have been a Roman soldier who chose to retire in Stratford after serving in an African unit.

Investigations into the man’s background are continuing.

Malin Holst, of York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, said he had identified elements of the mature African male skeleton in bones unearthed from a Roman-period cemetery.

Stuart Palmer, from Archaeology Warwickshire, said: “African skeletons have previously been found in large Romano-British towns like York and African units are known to have formed part of the Hadrian’s Wall garrison, but we had no reason to expect any in Warwickshire and certainly not in a community as small as Roman Stratford.”

He added the bones revealed the man was heavily built and used to carrying heavy loads. He had suffered arthritis in one of his shoulders, his hips and lower back.

Mr Palmer said: “His teeth showed that his childhood was plagued by disease or malnutrition, but there was no evidence for the cause of death.

“He could have been a merchant, although, based on the evidence of the skeletal pathology it is probably more likely that he was a slave or an army veteran who retired to Stratford.”

There’s virtually identical coverage in the Daily Mail:

… suggesting this all stems from a press release somewhere that I’ll track down at some point (it doesn’t seem to be at the York Osteoarchaeology page). Whatever the case, folks should check out Kristina Kilgrove’s comments on the media coverage of the find:



This Day in Ancient History: ante diem vii kalendas februarias

An image of Halley's Comet from 1910.
Image via Wikipedia

ante diem vii kalendas februarias

  • Sementivae or Paganalia (day ?) — Sementivae was a festival of sowing which was actually a moveable feast (although I’m not sure of the moveability criteria; I’m guessing that the first day falls between January 24 and 26). By Ovid’s time it appears to have been coincident with Paganalia, which also obviously has some rural aspect to it. It appears to have been a two-day festival with an interval of seven days between (corrections on this welcome … my sources seem muddled on this one)
  • 66 A.D. — perihelion of what would eventually be called Halley’s comet (possibly mentioned in Josephus; less possibly mentioned in Suetonius)
  • 97 A.D. — martyrdom of Timothy
  • 1721 — death of Pierre Daniel Huet (editor of the Delphi Classics)