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Skeletal remains of Roman aristocrat discovered in hidden lead coffin in Leeds


Skeletal remains of Roman aristocrat discovered in hidden lead coffin in Leeds


n ancient lead coffin thought to contain the remains of a late-Roman aristocratic woman has been discovered in Leeds.

The find is part of a previously undiscovered 1,600-year-old cemetery which also contained the remains of more than 60 men, women and children who lived in the area more than a thousand years ago.

Experts said the discovery, which was made in Garforth, could help unlock the secrets of one of the most significant periods in British history.

Those buried with the woman in the cemetery are believed to include both late-Roman and early-Saxon people, with the burial customs of both cultures found in different graves.

The coffin was excavated indoors by a team in Garforth

/ Leeds City Council

Archaeologists hope this means the site can help them chart the largely undocumented transition between the fall of the Roman Empire in around 400AD and the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms which followed.

On-site supervisor for the excavations, Kylie Buxton, said: “It is every archaeologist’s dream to work on a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ site, and supervising these excavations is definitely a career high for me.

“There is always a chance of finding burials, but to have discovered a cemetery of such significance, at such a time of transition, was quite unbelievable.

“For me it was a particular honour to excavate the high-status lead coffin burial, but it was a great team effort by everyone involved.”

Archaeologist Chloe Scot excavating one of the graves at the site

/ Leeds City Council

The discovery was made last spring, but is only being revealed now because of the need to keep the site safe.

Although the exact location remains confidential, the excavation was in part prompted by the previous discovery of late Roman stone buildings and a small number of Anglo-Saxon style structures nearby.

As well as the Roman coffin, burial practices found in the cemetery could indicate early Christian beliefs, as well as Saxon burials, which were accompanied by personal possessions such as knives and pottery.

Analysis of the remains will now take place, including carbon dating to establish precise timeframes.

Once analysis of the finds has taken place, it is hoped the lead coffin can be displayed in an upcoming exhibition at Leeds City Museum which will explore death and burial customs from across the world.

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