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Two Roman-era bodies found in a sarcophagus in Bath Gardens Bath City News

A stone sarcophagus dating from Roman times containing two burials has been unearthed by archaeologists in Sydney Gardens in Bath.

The find is said to be a very rare glimpse into local burial practices two thousand years ago.

The coffin is a Bath limestone coffin and lid containing the preserved remains of a person lying on their stomach and the partial remains of a second person lying at their feet.

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It was found in a tomb about two meters long, two feet wide and two feet deep and its north-facing appearance suggests a pagan burial.

A cremation burial was also found – the only recorded cremation burial at Bathwick Cemetery to date.

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A possible votive offering of a small jar containing leftover food was found near the tomb, along with a number of other finds, including small red and blue glass beads.

Sydney Gardens in Bath is a former 18th century pleasure garden currently undergoing building conservation and landscaping work by Bath and North East Somerset Council and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which led to the discovery of ‘a Roman wall.

LP Archeology archaeologists, who were overseeing the earthworks, began excavating the area around the wall that stood at the edge of Bathwick Roman Cemetery.

It was then that the stone sarcophagus was revealed.

Kelly Madigan, Partner at LP Archeology, said: “This is a real career highlight, it’s not often that you come across a stone coffin in situ with its occupants; especially on a briefing of the day before.

“The excavations carried out by our team of specialists were a huge success and it goes without saying that they were undertaken according to high international standards in terms of excavations and archaeological records.

“I am more than delighted to hear the results of the evaluation which is currently underway in our laboratories and I hope that it will in turn lend itself to an interesting analysis phase where we can deepen the question of who were the people we found in the coffin. , where they came from, their health and well-being.

“Having a human skeleton directly associated with a coffin is a rarity and having this associated with a probable votive offering and human cremation nearby, allows for a very rare glimpse of funeral practices in the region nearly two millennia ago. . “

Roman sarcophagus found in Sydney Gardens in Bath (Image: Bath and North East Somerset Council)

The council is considering an option to display the empty stone sarcophagus in the Temple of Minerva in the Botanical Gardens, where new information boards on the pleasure gardens are expected to be located.

The Sydney Gardens project also hopes to include an interpretation on the Roman archeology of the gardens as part of the completed project.

Councilor Richard Samuel, Deputy Chief and Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Resources, said: “This is a remarkable and exciting discovery. We have such a rich, varied and important archaeological heritage in Bath and North East Somerset and it is important that it is properly preserved.

“We are working with our partners to ensure that the sarcophagus and the fascinating artefacts found nearby are on display locally for future generations to learn and enjoy. “

Dr Simon Thurley CBE, Chairman of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are incredibly excited by the news of the unearthing of a Roman stone sarcophagus in Sydney Gardens in Bath.

“It makes us very proud to know that our funding led to such an important discovery.

“One of the UK’s only surviving Georgian pleasure gardens and local park for iconic novelist Jane Austen, the restoration of Sydney Gardens is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to benefit people of all ages and ages. capabilities. “

3D model of the Roman sarcophagus (Image: Bath and North East Somerset Council)

Steve Membery, Senior Historic Environment Officer for the South West Heritage Trust and Council Advisor, said: “The discovery of the sarcophagus in Sydney Gardens shows why Bath deserves its international reputation for Roman archeology and its designation as world heritage site.

“The discovery offers a fantastic opportunity to use cutting-edge scientific analysis to learn more about the lives of individuals in the coffin, including where they came from and whether they are related.”

Sylvia Warman, Science Advisor for Historic England provided advice on this rare find.

Ms Warman said: ‘This is an amazing find – although several Roman stone coffins have been found around Bath in the past, none have been excavated and recorded by professional archaeologists using modern methods until today.

“This is a first for Bathwick and a truly significant discovery for Roman Bath and the World Heritage site.

“Once completed, a scientific study of the remains will likely tell us much more about the life, death and burial practices of the people of Roman Bath.”

The project team obtained a license from the Ministry of Justice to handle and manage human remains.

Under permit conditions, the remains will be reburied in a legally certified cemetery by 2026.

In the meantime, while further analysis is undertaken, the remains will be kept safe, private and in a decent manner.

The Sydney Gardens Project will restore historic buildings, invest in landscape and garden restoration work, and create new play areas for all ages, over a three-year program.

Work on the garden should be completed in March 2022.

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This notice was published: 2021-06-29 10:59:33

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