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What is the Roman mystery?

In 1974, during thePhoto of Roman remains 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 a woman.

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?


For more information contact Medway Archives and Local Studies by telephone: 01634 332714 or by email: malsc@medway.gov.uk

Write to: Medway Archives and Local Studies, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TR