Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Gladiator Cemetery Unearthed in York

The remains of 80 gladiators dating from the time of the Roman Empire have been unearthed in the centre of York. The ancient skeletons were found beneath the gardens of an elegant street of 18th century houses, and many of them still showed the evidence of the horrific injuries that they had suffered.

York was a very important city in Roman Britain and was the capital of the northern province of Britannia Inferior.  It was a very heavily fortified city, due to its proximity to Hadrian's Wall and the marauding Picts, and several Roman Emperors held court there.

The gladiators in these Yorkshire graves were all slaves who had been imported from all corners of the Roman Empire to fight in the arena. The skeletons show that these young men were taller and had been better fed than the average person of that period, and their sword arms showed evidence of stronger muscle development than their defence arms due to all the training they were required to undertake.

Some of the skeletons were decapitated, which was a common way to despatch a defeated gladiator in the arena, others had had their skulls caved in by a heavy, blunt instrument, and one of the skeletons carried a bite mark that came from a large predator, such as a lion, leopard or bear.

These young men who fought as gladiators were revered by the public and were the popstars and footballers of their day.  But the only future that they could look forward to was a violent, bloody and painful death in front of a large crowd baying for blood.  Moreover, being slaves, they had had no choice as to whether or not they wanted to train and fight.  So although they were well fed in life, and honoured with rich grave goods in death, their lives were short, violent and brutish.

Read more on the gladiators of York

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

New Ancient Egyptian Tombs Discovered at Lahun

A group of 45 ancient Egyptian tombs has recently been discovered at Lahun, which is south of Cairo in the Fayum. There are four seperate cemeteries, one that dates back to the first and second dynasties and is composed of 14 tombs, one which dates from the Middle Kingdom containing 31 tombs, one from the New Kingdom and one from the Late Period.

One of the tombs from the first and second dynasty cemetery has been discovered almost completely intact with all its funerary equipment and a sarcophagus containing a mummy.  Many of the other tombs were also found to contain mummies still within their wooden painted sarcophagi.  One of the tombs dating to the 18th dynasty was found to have 12 painted wooden sarcophagi piled on top of one another.

Read on to find out more about the discovery of amazing new tombs at Lahun