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'Gladiator cemetery' found in York

7th June 2010

What is believed to be one of the world's best preserved gladiator cemeteries has been found in York.

Archaeologists have been examining around 80 skeletons discovered beneath the garden of a former 18th century mansion in the city and believe they could be the remains of gladiators from the Roman era.

The skeletons, which were unearthed in 2004, were originally thought to be those of soldiers who were executed during the coup of Emperor Severus' traitorous son Caracalla in 211.

However, forensic analysis has led experts from the York Archaeological Trust to conclude the remains are those of gladiators who fought in an undiscovered amphitheatre in the area.

The skeletons have injuries consistent with close combat, while some have been killed by a hammer blow to the head. One also sports the bite of a large carnivore - possibly a lion, tiger or bear.

Dr Michael Wysocki, senior lecturer in forensic anthropology and archaeology at the University of Central Lancashire, commented: 'These are internationally important discoveries. We don't have any other potential gladiator cemeteries with this level of preservation anywhere else in the world.'

Earlier this year, bestselling children's writer Caroline Lawrence lent her support to the Colchester Roman Circus Appeal, which is attempting to save the only known Roman chariot racing circuit in Britain from development.

© W&G Foyle Ltd
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