Archaeologists Open Ancient Child’s Coffin for First Time
Last month we reported on the rare discovery of a Roman coffin belonging to a child in a field in Leicestershire, England. However, archaeologists could not open it until conditions were right out of fear that the contents would rapidly deteriorate. Scientists were also not very hopeful about finding any remains inside the coffin as an examination through an endoscope only revealed layers of silt. But the important moment came this week and researchers were pleasantly surprised with what they found .
Unlike most coffins from the Roman era, which were made of wood, this coffin was made of lead, suggesting that the child came from a powerful and wealthy family. This fact aided in its preservation as a wooden coffin would have deteriorated long ago.
Stuart Palmer, from Archaeology Warwickshire, had said it was unlikely any human remains would still exist inside the coffin. “We may find some bone fragments, but there’s no guarantee they will be recognisable,” he added.
However, after painstakingly sifting through the layers of silt inside the coffin, archaeologists were please to find fragments of bone, which will be analysed, and a black jet bead, which may have belonged to the child.
“To be present at its discovery and now seeing its secrets being revealed is amazing. The experts doing the work say they have never worked on a child’s lead coffin from Roman times,” said amateur treasure-hunter Chris Wright, who was one of the people who found it. Stuart Palmer added that there may only be a handful of lead-lined Roman coffins in the country.
A full analysis is about to be undertaken, including an examination of the soil looking for seeds, pollen and any more bone fragments which may have survived. A full report on the findings will be reported in around a month.
"It's important because it's a rare opportunity to look at the burial customs, the environment and the type of clothing,” said Palmer. “We hope it will shed much needed light on a remote period of our past."