Roman child found by archaeologists named Oriens after Leicestershire public vote

By Sarah Jackson | 18 December 2013

After 1,600 years, the coffin of a Roman child is shedding light on the burial practices and customs of Roman Britain

Two men micro-excavate a lead coffin filled with earth
Finder Chris Wright looks on as Dr Matt Pickering and Professor Brendon Keely of University of York InterArchive Archaeology Project micro-excavate the lead coffin© Archaeology Warwickshire

Archaeology can reveal much of the past but one thing that bone fragments cannot tell us is the name of the people they once were.

When Archaeology Wessex excavated the coffin of a Roman child in Leicestershire last month, they hoped that it might reveal more information about Britain’s Roman past. As a mark of respect to the child, who was buried more than 1,600 years ago, the public was invited to vote on a Romanised name for the child.

After several weeks of voting, nearly 2,000 people had cast their vote via the Warwickshire News Site and Twitter. With 34% of the total vote, Oriens was chosen as the winner.

The name comes from the Latin verb "to rise" (in the east, like the sun) and is also used to refer to Venus the Morning Star. This was agreed to be an appropriate name as the find has already cast light on aspects of the customs and practices of Roman Britain.

Two pieces of Jet or Shale bracelets found in the coffin strongly indicate that Oriens was a little girl of a wealthy and certainly an important member of society at the time.

Oriens is expected to reveal even more on what life was like in Roman Britain as further tests are completed, including samples that were sent for further testing at the University of York. These results are expected to come back over the next five months.

A section on Archaeology Warwickshire’s website has been dedicated to Oriens. The first part of the story, about the discovery and excavation of the coffin, is already live and the site will be the first source of information on any future developments.

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Follow Sarah Jackson on Twitter @SazzyJackson.

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