Archaeologists uncover 1,800-year-old murder mystery

Last Updated: Friday, September 17, 2010 - 09:18

London: A team of archaeologists claim to
have uncovered an 1,800-year-old murder mystery following the
discovery of skeletal remains of a child with her hands tied
and injuries inflicted to her head.

The skeleton of the child, thought to be below 10 years,
was found from a shallow grave in the corner of a barracks
room during an excavation at the Vindolanda Roman fort near
Bardon Mill in Northumberland, UK.

Human burials in built-up areas such as forts and towns
were said to be strictly forbidden in Roman times and the dead
had to be interred or cremated in cemeteries on the outskirts.

This has led the experts to believe that the child was
murdered and then buried in a rush so as not to arouse
suspicion, the Daily Mail reported.

Although the wheels of justice have turned far too slowly
for this little girl, her death could help unlock ancient
secrets, the researchers said.
A full examination of the remains is expected to take
place within days and the results should be known within a
month.

The archaeologists are uncertain whether the damage to the
skull was inflicted at the time of her death or has taken
place in the hundreds of years since.

At first, they believed that they had found the remains of
a large dog. But when the entire skeleton was unveiled the
grim truth emerged.

Dr Trudi Buck, a biological anthropologist from Durham
University, identified the remains as those of a young person,
possibly a girl.

She said: "From the body’s position in the grave, the
hands could have been tied together.

"The investigation so far has been very preliminary. There
were no specific signs of damage to the bones that could be
seen on first examination.

"The cranium was very broken when it was discovered, but
it is difficult to say if this was from any injuries sustained
to it, or whether they have occurred over time."

The grave where the girl was found dates back to the
mid-third century, when the Fourth Cohort of Gauls formed the
garrison at Vindolanda.

Dr Andrew Birley, Vindolanda`s director of excavations,
said: "All sorts of scenarios are being considered. First and
foremost we could be dealing with a slave, not a free person.

"There could have been a dispute between two soldiers and
one of them could have decided to damage the other`s property.
"In Roman times slaves were considered to be property, and
it is possible the little girl was harmed to settle a score."

It is not the first evidence of foul play at local
excavation sites, which take in ten forts built by Romans.

In the 1930s, Dr Birley`s grandfather, Eric, found two
skeletons under a floor in a house at nearby Housesteads fort,
one of whom had a knife blade stuck in the ribs.

PTI



First Published: Friday, September 17, 2010 - 09:18

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