In what was at the time an isolated outpost of the Roman Empire, young men were fighting to death for the amusement of the crowd. After the fight ended the young men’s heads were removed and the bodies buried on the edge of what is now the city of York. Researchers have now been able to use modern techniques to determine where these men were from and found some unusual results.
After the location of 80 male skeletons found in a gladiator’s cemetary, genetic comparisons were made with local specimens. The study found that the vast majority were English – with one exception. Testing has revealed that this gladiator was originally from the Middle East. Scientists further traced the descendants of these men, and discovered they very closely realated to those from modern-day Wales.
The location of the graves was originally on the perimeter of the Roman city. It was first located over 10 years ago, and has split expert opinion as to precisely who is buried there. All of the corpses are amle and younger than 45, and of above average in height for the times. Many showed signs of violent injury that had healed, and many had their head removed. Some academics belived that they may likely have been soldiers or criminals. Other aspects, though, such as obvious indications one was bitten by a large carnivore such as a lion or bear, and that a great many were finished off with a blunt blow to the head, is normal when considering gladiator life at the times.
Archaeology as well as osteoarchaeology can provide us a certain amount of information concerning the skeletons, but the new genomic research can provide us data concerning its origins, and that is a huge leap in understanding,
states Christine McDonnell, York Archaeological Trust.
The findings simply confirm that even at its most barbaric edges, the Roman Empire was still a cosmopolitan and mixed environment.