Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Roman mass grave in Gloucester contained possible victims of the Antonine plague

From the 24 hour museum.

A mass Roman grave, discovered in Gloucester in 2005, may have contained the victims of an acute disease of epidemic proportions, possibly plague.

This is the startling conclusion to a new report by Oxford Archaeology and archaelogical consultancy CgMs, who have been conducting an 18-month programme of scientific study on the grave, which contained around 91 skeletons.

The discovery of a mass grave of Roman date is almost unparalleled in British archaeology and archaeologists now believe the remains were of individuals who had been thrown in over a short period of time during the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD.

“The skeletons of adult males, females, and children were lying in a very haphazard fashion, their bones completely entangled, reflecting the fact that they had been dumped, unceremoniously in a hurried manner,” explained Louise Loe, Head of Burial Archaeology at Oxford Archaeology.

“When we studied the skeletons we were looking for evidence, such as trauma, that would explain why they had been buried in such a way. In fact, very little trauma was found on the skeletons and there were no diseases that would explain why they had been singled out for this treatment.”

The unusual arrangement of the skeletons led archaeologists to conclude that the individuals were the victims of an epidemic that did not discriminate against age or sex.

Full story here.

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