Archaeologists hope the remains of an ancient Roman aristocrat recently discovered in northern England will shed light on the region’s transition from Roman rule to the ensuing Anglo-Saxon kingdoms some 1,600 years ago.
Described as “a find of a lifetime,” the cemetery contains the remains of both late Romans, such as the lead sarcophagus in which an aristocratic woman was buried, as well as the remains of an early Saxon people.
“Having two communities using the same burial site is very unusual and whether or not their use of this burial overlapped will determine the significance of the find,” said David Hunter, principal archaeologist at West Yorkshire Joint Services, in a statement. Monday. “When seen together, the burials indicate the complexity and fragility of life during a dynamic period in Yorkshire’s history.”
The tomb was first discovered last spring near Garforth in Leeds. Its existence has been kept secret for the past year so that archaeologists can safely excavate the area and carry out the necessary tests.
The remains of 60 men, women and children are in the cemetery, with evidence of burial customs from both the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons.
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As the Roman Empire withdrew from Britain in the fifth century AD, Germanic tribes — including the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians — began arriving, according to the UK-based Historical Society.
“There is always a chance of finding burials, but to discover a cemetery of this importance, at such a transitional time, was incredible,” said the superintendent of excavations at the site, Monday.
The authorities have not yet disclosed the exact location of the tomb, but have indicated that it was discovered after Roman stone buildings and some early Anglo-Saxon structures were found nearby.
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Now a team of experts will date the remains to establish an exact time frame for when the tomb was actively used. Other tests may be able to reveal buried ancestors, their diet, and other shining details.
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