Skeletons of decapitated man and female farmer found at school in Roman Worcestershire

By Ben Miller | 03 November 2014

Female farmer could have made food, cloth or been a general labourer on a Roman farmstead centuries ago

A photo of a series of dark brown archaeological Roman hobnails laid out in a circle
© Worcestershire County Council
A young male who was decapitated after death before having his head placed by his legs has been identified as one of two Roman burials in Worcestershire, with the accompanying skeleton thought to have belonged to a woman over 50 who was laid to rest in an agricultural ceremony.

Archaeologists digging at a primary school say the man, who was aged between 25 and 30, had signs of degenerative joints and osteoarthritis. It is unclear why the beheading ritual – a common post-mortem practice of the period – took place.

"This discovery seems to support evidence that during Roman times there were small farmsteads in Worcestershire, owned or run by a family,” said Tom Vaughan, an archaeologist on the dig.

“The excavations are typical of Roman internments in the area and similar to recent excavations near Wyre Piddle and St John's, Worcester.

“It is well known that there was Roman occupation around Bredon Hill.

"The recovery and analysis of the remains has provided important information which has contributed to the growing archaeological evidence for the nature of dispersed burial practices during the Roman period in rural Worcestershire."

A set of hobnails found on the woman could indicate a “physically demanding” farming lifestyle. Recent research has suggested that female labourers would have been employed on farmsteads during the Roman era, preparing food, manufacturing cloth and carrying out general work.

A selection of late Iron Age pots were found near the incomplete skeletons, with cropmarks of a possible trackway and enclosures supporting the theory that farming took place in the area.

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