Remains of female gladiator found in Britain

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a `massive, muscular woman`.

Updated: Jul 04, 2010, 08:36 AM IST

London: Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a `massive, muscular woman` who they believe could possibly be a female gladiator during the Roman occupation of Britain.

The remains were found in a crouched position in an elaborate wooden coffin, reinforced with iron straps and copper strips in Credenhill, Herefordshire.

The area where the discovery was made is believed to be a suburb of the nearby Roman town of Kenchester.

Robin Jackson, who headed the archaeologist team, said: "When we first looked at the leg and arm bones, the muscle attachments suggested it was quite a strapping big bloke.

"But the pelvis and head, and all the indicators of gender, say it`s a woman. One explanation could be that she was a female gladiator," he said.

Gladiators are armed fighters who engaged in violent combat with humans or animals for the entertainment of audiences during the Roman Empire.

It is believed that the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193 to 211 AD, allowed women to fight as gladiators but banned the tradition in 200 AD.

Jackson said: "The coffin would have been made of wood -- we haven`t got any of the wood left, but we`ve got the nails around the outside then three huge giant straps that run all the way around the coffin, and also bronze strips on the corners which would have probably strengthened it, but
probably decorated it.

"It`s quite an elaborate and probably a very expensive coffin, and yet the person in it looked like they had a hard working life, and so there`s an anomaly there."

An offering of beef and a fired pot were also found in the grave, and she was buried on top of a base of gravel.

Also unusual was the place where she was buried -- in the suburb, instead of in a cemetery on the edge of the settlement, which was the law in Roman times.

According to experts, the suburb was developed between 2nd and 3rd centuries AD during the Roman occupation in Britain.

Scientists believe that it was much more extensive and densely occupied than had previously been thought.

Work in 2009 showed that the area contains the well-preserved remains of Roman buildings, yards and rubbish pits situated to either side of a major Roman road, which ran east out of the town.