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What is the Roman mystery?
In 1974, during the widening of Corporation Street in Rochester,
some buildings which had been standing along the line of the Roman
city wall were demolished. The opportunity was taken to dig the
area for finds relating to the history of the city. On the site
next to George Lane, among the usual Roman debris and small
domestic items, there was a surprise. In the bank below the wall,
the archaeologists found a shallow grave containing the skeleton of
The legs of the skeleton had been removed at the hips by the
digging of a rubbish pit much later but the arms were still
ornamented with no less than 15 pieces of bronze jewellery, some of
which can be seen at the Guildhall Museum. They were dated roughly
to the middle of the fourth century AD. Further study of the
skeleton established that our Roman woman must have been about 35
when she died.
The discovery of the body was the more surprising because,
during the Roman period, burial inside the city walls was strictly
forbidden and highly illegal. It seems safe to assume that this
burial therefore took place without the knowledge of the
authorities and if that was the case, perhaps the death itself was
irregular and secret. Does the museum today contain the only
remaining evidence of a 1,700 year-old murder?