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Skeleton provides clue to York's Roman amphitheatre
Staff examine skeleton found beneath the Yorkshire Museum. Copyright: York Museums Trust
The skeleton is that of a powerful, athletic male

A skeleton of a Roman, who was stabbed to death, could be a clue in the search for York's Roman amphitheatre.

The remains were discovered beneath the Yorkshire Museum during the museum's refurbishment.

The skeleton is that of a large powerful, athletic male who was stabbed at least six times in a fatal attack.

Where he was found has long thought to be one of the prime locations for the Roman amphitheatre that certainly would have existed in York.

Following analysis by experts from York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, it has been revealed that the skeleton was of a middle aged adult male, aged between 36 and 45 years.

He was very tall for a Roman at 179 cm and of a muscular build. Lesions in his vertebrae suggest spinal stress, possibly through lifting heavy loads.

His arms are well developed and, similar to other gladiators found in York, bear all the hallmarks of repetitive sword training.

'Violent and bloody death'

Andrew Morrison, head curator of the Yorkshire Museum, said:

"This was a huge man for the Roman period who died a violent and bloody death. The physical evidence reveals he was a swordsman and that his body was literally dumped with the rubbish.

"There was no hint that he had been buried in a ceremonial way."

The most notable clues on the skeleton are the six blade injuries which, because there are no signs of healing, were delivered at death. The wounds are typical of someone involved in armed combat, possibly gladiatorial combat, with numerous blows inflicted before he was finally killed.

The skeleton was not discovered in a position associated with organised Roman burial but with animal bones and broken pottery.

Amphitheatre location

It was found in an area which has for a long time puzzled archaeologists as it is in close proximity to the Roman Fortress, on what was a very flat expanse of ground.

Yorkshire Museum
The Yorkshire Museum floats above the ruins of the medieval St Mary's Abbey

Andrew Morrison added: "What is really interesting to us is that he was found in this area, that many believe could be where York's amphitheatre was located.

"It is far from certain but it could well be the case that this man was a disgraced gladiator who was brutally killed and then left to rot."

Because it is also a key medieval site, the precinct of St Mary's Abbey, excavation has been limited so the Museum Gardens remains one of the few untouched areas in the city that may have been large enough to house the amphitheatre.

The skeleton was found in January by builders carrying out work on the museum, as part of its £2 million refurbishment. It was found only 30 cm beneath the museum's foundations.

The remains of the Roman are going on display at the Yorkshire Museum from this week.

Remains 'may be Roman gladiators'
07 Jun 10 |  North Yorkshire
Skeleton found buried at museum
19 Jan 10 |  North Yorkshire


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