A Roman tombstone which dates back to first century AD has been discovered underneath a parking lot in the market town of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in West England.
Scientists were thrilled to discover an Roman tombstone — still in its pristine condition — underneath a parking garage in Cirencester. According to them, the tombstone rested alongside an incomplete set of human bones thought to have belonged to a certain Bodica, the person described in the tombstone.
Archaeologist Neil Holbrook of the Cotswold Archaeology translated the inscription on the tombstone.
“To the spirit of the departed Bodica [or Bodicaca], wife, lived for 27 years.”
Holbrook says the discovery is “unique” in the sense that it was unearthed right beside the person who rested underneath the tombstone. It was one of the first times the group of archaeologists discovered a tombstone that positively identified the remains under it.
“The unique aspect is that you can put a name to the person who lies beneath the tombstone. What’s weird is that the inscription only fills half of the panel, so there’s a space left below it,” Mr. Holbrook told BBC News.
“You can see horizontal marking-out lines, so I guess what they were going to do was come back later when her husband died and add his name to the inscription,” Mr. Holbrook added.
Holbrook hypothesized that Bodica, who may have been of Celtic origin, resided in Gloucestershire and married an affluent foreigner later in her life.
“Perhaps Bodica is a local Gloucestershire girl who’s married an incoming Roman or Gaul from France and has adopted this very Roman way of death,” he explained.
The quality of the tombstone indicates that Bodica and her family may have been fairly wealthy. Holbrook says the fine detail on the pediment — the triangular area above the tombstone — and the intricate decorations all over the stone usually came with a hefty price tag.
“Looking at the pediment, those little ‘teeth’ which we could see from the back are decorative swirls. It looks like a draping of a cloth or sheet, so in many ways the decoration is really fine.”
Aside from Bodica’s alleged remains, three other skeletons — presumed by some to be her children — were also found near the excavation site, leading discoverers to believe that the area may have been intended as a family burial plot.
[Images from Cotswold Archaeology and the BBC]