Headless Romans in England Came From "Exotic" Locales?

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An ancient English cemetery filled with headless skeletons holds proof that the victims lost their heads a long way from home, archaeologists say.

Unearthed between 2004 and 2005 in the northern city of York (map), the 80 skeletons were found in burial grounds used by the Romans throughout the second and third centuries A.D. Almost all the bodies are males, and more than half of them had been decapitated, although many were buried with their detached heads.

York—then called Eboracum—was the Roman Empire's northernmost provincial capital during the time.

In a new study of the ancient bones, Gundula Müldner of the University of Reading in the U.K. says the "headless Romans" likely came from as far away as Eastern Europe, and previous evidence of combat scars suggests that the men led violent lives.

Müldner's team analyzed the bones for chemical clues called isotopes, which are different versions of particular elements. Based on the geology and climate of where a person grew up, their bones hold telltale traces of isotopes absorbed from the local food and water.

Oxygen and strontium isotopes in the bones of the headless Romans indicate that just 5 of the 18 individuals tested came from the York area, the team reports in the new study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The rest of the men came from elsewhere in England or mainland Europe, possibly from France, Germany, the Balkans, or the Mediterranean.....

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