World's best-preserved gladiatorial relics are discovered in the suburbs of York





Archaeologists investigating an ancient Roman burial site in Britain have identified what may be the world's best preserved remains of gladiators and other arena fighters who entertained audiences through bloody confrontations with wild animals.

Eighty skeletons have been unearthed at the site in Driffield Terrace, south west of the centre of York, over the past decade. One man appears to have been killed by a large carnivore – almost certainly a lion, tiger or bear. Others have weapon impact damage and many of them have specific features, including marks on their bones, consistent with tough training regimes.

The discovery – the subject of a Channel 4 documentary next Monday – is of international importance and promises to shed new light on life in Roman Britain. One important piece of evidence is the unusually high number of men with their right arms markedly longer than their left – a feature mentioned in ancient Roman literature in connection with gladiators.

About a quarter of the 80 skeletons excavated at the York site display this characteristic, and around half of those have particularly significant asymmetry, with right arms between 1 and 1.8cm longer than their left, according to a detailed survey of the material carried out by forensic anthropologists at the University of Central Lancashire.



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