A Lady of York: migration, ethnicity and identity in Roman Britain


Roman column outside York Minster. Photo by Green Lane

Roman column outside York Minster. Photo by Green Lane

A Lady of York: migration, ethnicity and identity in Roman Britain

S. Leach, H. Eckardt, C. Chenery, G. Müldner & M. Lewis

Antiquity: 84 (323), pp. 131 – 145

Abstract

Modern methods of analysis applied to cemeteries have often been used in our pages to suggest generalities about mobility and diet. But these same techniques applied to a single individual, together with the grave goods and burial rite, can open a special kind of personal window on the past. Here, the authors of a multidisciplinary project use a combination of scientific techniques to illuminate Roman York, and later Roman history in general, with their image of a glamorous mixed-race woman, in touch with Africa, Christianity, Rome and Yorkshire.




The Roman conquest incorporated Britain into an empire that comprised Europe, North Africa and the Near and Middle East, resulting in the extensive voluntary and forced movement of people (Birley 1979; Mattingly 2006). Eboracum (York), founded in c . AD 71 and located in north-eastern England, was both a legionary fortress and civilian settlement, and functioned as one of the provincial capitals for much of the later Roman period (Ottaway 2004). The civilian settlement included the wives and families of the military personnel, and upon discharge, many soldiers simply continued to live where they had served (cf. Mann 1983). Both the impact of the military, and extended visits by the Tripolitania-born Emperor Septimius Severus (AD 208-211), and later Constantius I and Constantine the Great (AD 306), provide potential circumstances for immigration to York, and for the foundation of a multicultural and diverse community (cf. Hartley et al. 2006).

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