Slaughtered Roman gladiator found at Yorkshire Museum

By Culture24 Staff | 09 December 2010
A photo of archaeologists looking at a dig site
Archaeologists have found the slaughtered corpse of a Roman gladiator in the garden of the Yorkshire Museum
The skeleton of a Roman Gladiator who was stabbed six times and left to rot in a gruesome Medieval murder has been found 30 centimetres under the surface of grass in the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum.

The huge athlete, whose corpse was found by builders working on the museum’s £2 million redevelopment, is thought to have been slaughtered after defeat in battle and thrown into the shallow grave.

Experts believe the find confirms the site used to be a Roman amphitheatre in the precinct of St Mary’s Abbey, built when York was the Roman capital of the North.

A photo of a dig on soil
The find boosts belief that the flat terrain was used as an ampitheatre
“This was a huge man for the Roman period who died a violent and bloody death,” said Andrew Morrison, the head curator at the museum.

“The physical evidence reveals he was a swordsman and that his body was literally dumped with the rubbish – there was no hint that he had been buried in a ceremonial way.

“But what is really interesting to us is that he was found in this area, which is not associated with Roman burials and many believe could be where York’s amphitheatre was located.

“It is far from certain but it could well be the case that this man was a disgraced gladiator who was brutally killed and then left to rot.”

Forensic analysts from York Osteoarchaeology said the man was between 36 and 45, with lesions in his backbone suggesting spinal stress and well-developed arms which were probably beefed up by repetitive sword training.

The fatal blow is thought to have been a powerful stab to the back of the combatant’s head, although a superficial wound scythed off a chunk of scalp and a second cut the right side of the skull in two places.

Archaeologists have frequently puzzled over the area, which lies on a flat expanse of ground usually containing animal bones and broken pottery.

The remains of the Roman will go on display at the museum this week.

Images: York Museums Trust
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