January 25, 2011
A 1,700-year-old skeleton shows that people of African descent have lived in Warwickshire for far longer than was previously thought, experts say.
The skeleton of an African man was discovered buried in Tiddington Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 2009.
Archaeologists said they now believed the man may have been a Roman soldier who chose to retire in Stratford after serving in an African unit.
Investigations into the man's background are continuing.
Malin Holst, of York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, said he had identified elements of the mature African male skeleton in bones unearthed from a Roman-period cemetery.
Stuart Palmer, from Archaeology Warwickshire, said: "African skeletons have previously been found in large Romano-British towns like York and African units are known to have formed part of the Hadrian's Wall garrison, but we had no reason to expect any in Warwickshire and certainly not in a community as small as Roman Stratford."
He added the bones revealed the man was heavily built and used to carrying heavy loads. He had suffered arthritis in one of his shoulders, his hips and lower back.
Mr Palmer said: "His teeth showed that his childhood was plagued by disease or malnutrition, but there was no evidence for the cause of death.
"He could have been a merchant, although, based on the evidence of the skeletal pathology it is probably more likely that he was a slave or an army veteran who retired to Stratford."