Cambridge #2

Friday, 23rd November, 2007

I was in Cambridge again this week and had some opportunity to be a tourist, visiting the FitzWilliam Museum, to see exhibitions like, The Gentle Art: Friends and Strangers in Whistler’s Prints. Also, while it doesn’t have a large collection of Spencer’s paintings, the FitzWilliam does have some quite famous works, such as Love Among the Nations (1936), for example. I also went to The Cambridge and County Folk Museum, this time. Cambridge University Library have an interesting exhibition, Through the Whole Island – Excursions in Great Britain, at the moment.I also had occasion to attend a Michaelmas Term Sunday morning service at King’s College Chapel and hear the choir sing.

Metal detector pair find Roman Briton skeleton

The 1,800-year-old skeleton of one of Roman Britain’s “social elite” has been discovered by two men with metal detectors who had already unearthed a £1 million Viking treasure.

The father and son team, David and Andrew Whelan discovered the skeleton buried in a six-foot lead-lined coffin near the Roman town of Aldborough in north Yorks.The find has excited archaeologists who believe the skeleton is probably that of a woman of British descent and that the style of coffin indicates that she was probably a wealthy landowner. The coffin, which was publicly unveiled yesterday and weighs half a ton, was carefully removed over the course of a week from a stone chamber under the field.The lid was carefully prised off by a team from York Archaeological Trust and English Heritage, which funded the £16,000 excavation.They uncovered an intact Romano-British skeleton, around five feet six long. It had been buried without decorations or jewellery between the second and fourth centuries. The Roman empire lasted until the fifth century.Mr Panter [the trust's principal conservator] said the skeleton was in such good condition possibly because the combination of the coffin and chamber prevented ground water seeping through.He added: “We’ve not been able to sex or age the remains yet although we are confident it is a female.”English Heritage is to survey the area to see if there are any other similar bodies to be found.Dr Patrick Ottaway, an expert in Roman Yorkshire, said the skeleton was probably that of a wealthy landowner, “a member of the social elite who owned very good farmland in that area, someone whose wealth derived from land”.The person would probably be of British descent, rather than a Roman, and would probably have played some role in the political hierarchy of the region, he said.Over the centuries, the roof of the chamber housing the coffin collapsed, damaging part of the coffin and cracking the skeleton’s skull. However, the jaw bone and teeth remain intact and archaeologists will be able to determine the person’s age, sex, diet and travel movements.