ossamenta: (Book store = shiny!)
[personal profile] ossamenta
As one of the contributors, I got a copy of the new Lankhills cemetery book last Friday. The book is so new it’s not out in the bookshops yet, but will probably be in the online catalogues next week or so.

Lankhills book cover


It’s a very thorough book, with good illustrations and (several) photographs. It deals with the AD300-400 cemetery outside the Roman town Venta Bulgarum, now Winchester, in southern England. The site has been excavated previously, see for example Clark, 1979, The Roman cemetery at Lankhills, Winchester studies Vol.3. A total of 807 inhumation burials and 32 cremations have been excavated so far. The latest excavations, which this book covers, recovered 284 articulated skeletons, 100 deposits of disarticulated bones and 25 cremations. This latest assemblage also includes some unusual burials, such as eight prone inhumations (i.e. buried face to the ground) and five decapitated skeletons, one of which was an infant.

The main part of the book consists of the grave catalogue, artefact analysis and human remains analysis. The grave catalogue has colour drawings of almost every inhumation, including drawings of pottery and photographs of most grave goods (glass beads, bracelets of copper alloy and shale, rings of copper alloy and silver (including a few intaglio ones), copper alloy brooches (including one with inscription - this is featured on the book cover), bone combs, copper alloy buckles, knives, hair pins, spindle whorls and one glass vessel and a pair of decorated spurs). The hob nails and the textile imprints on artefacts are discussed (and photographed) in the artefact chapter, as is the pottery. The artefact chapter also includes analysis and discussion of each of the abovementioned artefact types, as well as coffin nails, coins and tiles.

The human remains analysis has the usual detailed studies of age, sex and stature, as well as a very extensive pathology section. There is much variation in the pathologies, not just the usual caries, fractures and osteoarthritis, but amputations, decapitations, DISH, cribra and femora orbitalia, osteomas, ankylosis, Perthes’ disease, necrosis, spondylosis, sinusitis, rickets and possible scurvy (as well as several other pathological conditions).

Smaller parts of the book discuss the cremation burials (including pyre technology), burnt and unburnt animal remains in the graves, isotope analysis and funerary rites. The isotope analysis concerns both 13C + 15N and oxygen + strontium. The 13C and 15N analysis focusses on unusual individual graves (DISH, decapitations, prone burials, ones with unusual grave goods) to see if the diet of these people differed from the rest of the population. The oxygen and strontium analysis on the other hand discusses ancestry. Samples were taken from 40 individuals, of which 11 showed non-british signatures: 10 were from the mediterranean region and one possibly from central Europe. The discussion on funerary rites includes the use of coffins and shrouds, body position and grave goods.

All in all, if you’re interested in Roman artefacts, or Roman human remains, I recommend getting hold of this book, or at least checking it out in the local university library. Even if you’re only interested in human paleopathology in general it might be worth having a look.


P. Booth, A. Simmonds, A. Boyle, S. Clough, H.E.M. Cool and D. Poore, 2010. The late Roman cemetery at Lankhills, Winchester. Excavations 2000-2005. Oxford Archaeology Monograph No. 10.

Here via marshtide

Date: 2011-05-01 11:10 pm (UTC)
forthwritten: old map of Winchester, UK showing Roman placenames (venta belgarum)
From: [personal profile] forthwritten
Thanks for the review. I grew up in a village just outside Winchester and it's always interesting reading more about the archaeology of the area. Did you work on the site itself?
Edited Date: 2011-05-01 11:10 pm (UTC)

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