Somersham headless bodies were victims of Roman executions
Archaeologists believe a group of beheaded bodies discovered at a burial site were likely victims of Roman military executions. A military supply farm in Somersham, Cambridgeshire, was discovered with an “unusually significant” number of beheaded remains from the third century.
Several were on their knees when they arrived. been struck from behind with a sword.
Archaeologist Isabel Lisboa said 33% of those found were executed, compared to 6% in most British Roman cemeteries.
Three cemeteries were excavated revealing 52 graves, of which 17 were beheaded.
At least one of those executed – one more woman found face down – application the ears were tortured just before death or mutilated afterwards.
Their heads were found placed at their feet or at the bottom of their legs.
Dr Lisboa, of Archaeologica, said they dated back to a time of increasing instability forrl ‘Roman Empire, when the legal penalties became more severe.
“The number of capital crimes doubled in the 3rd Century and quadrupled in the 4th century, ” she says.
“As it was part of the Roman army, directly or indirectly, the severity of punishments and the application of Roman law would have been more severe in the settlements of Somersham,” he said.
The colony is believed to have supplied the Roman army, being part of a larger network of military farms at Camp Ground and Langdale Hale.
A “lack of genetic relationships ” between the bodies suggests that they were either in military service or in slavery.
At least two of those found were born in Scotland or Ireland, and one in the Alps.
Dr Lisboa said that “Knobb ‘s Farm has an unusually high proportion of beheaded bodies – 33% of those found – compared to at cemeteries locally and throughout Roman Britain. “
Elsewhere, decapitated bodies account for between 2.5% and 6% of burials.
The unit University of Cambridge Archeology Institute excavated the Knobb farm between 2001 and 2010, before gravel mining by Tarmac Trading.
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Analysis of the finds has just been published.
legend of the ‘image Most of those found were buried in separate graves with many in poor condition and some reduced to sand shadows