Archaeologists have uncovered the story of people buried in the restroom of the Roman baths near Edinburgh

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists not only obtained data on the diet of the inhabitants of Scotland in the 6th-7th centuries AD, but also found out that they were able to move around.

A team of scientists from the University of Aberdeen, the Edinburgh Museum, the University of Reading and Nottingham (UK) conducted a multi-isotope analysis of the remains of people buried in a group grave in the latrine of the Roman fort in Cramond, a suburb of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

The burial was discovered back in 1975; at first it was believed that the bodies of the victims of the plague or shipwreck of the XIV century lay there. However, as shown by radiocarbon analysis, these people lived about 800 years earlier, in the 6th-7th centuries, that is, in the early Middle Ages.

As the authors of the work note, information about the first centuries of the historical regions of Scotland is highly dependent on archaeological research due to the lack of written sources.

That era is characterized by important cultural and social transformations in the region, including the development of more pronounced hierarchical structures, the clash of rival political forces, and the spread of new ideologies.

In the first half of the first millennium, Scotland was divided ethnically: then this territory was inhabited by three main groups – Scots in Dal Riad (Gaelic kingdom) in the west, Picts in most of the north and Britons in the south.

The Picts made regular raids on the southern lands occupied by various British tribes. Scholars believe that in the 5th century, the Britons called in the Germanic tribes the Angles, Jutes, and Saxons to deal with the threat from the north.

Although archaeologists have confirmed the arrival of people from Europe during this period, the impact and nature of this migration was more complex than thought. As a result, after the departure of the Romans, the region faced a struggle for power and conflicts, exacerbated by the expansion of the English troops.

“Given the generally conservative nature of the diet of the inhabitants of early medieval Scotland, a deeper understanding of it could, in turn, improve our understanding of intergroup or intragroup transformations in such turbulent times,” the scientists write.

As previous studies have shown, the main diet of the inhabitants of that period consisted of the meat of domestic cattle, followed by pigs, sheep and goats. Barley and wheat were also grown, but little is known about marine food sources.

So, archaeologists obtained data on the eating habits and movements of nine adults – five women and four men. The skeletons of some of them showed signs of violence and traumatic brain injury.

All of them were buried in a latrine adjoining the north side of the frigidarium of the Roman baths at Cramond, which is located south of the mouth of the Firth of Forth and in close proximity to the Almond River (thereby the point received an ideal opportunity for trade and contacts).

Archaeologists have uncovered the story of people buried in the restroom of the Roman baths near Edinburgh 2

This area was settled in the middle of the ninth millennium BC. The Roman fort, to which the bath (or term) was added, was founded during the Antonine invasion of Scotland in 142 AD – as a distant cover of the eastern flank of the Antonine rampart between it and the Roman fort of Inveresk in the east.

Roman troops occupied the fort until the 160s AD. At the beginning of the 3rd century AD, it was re-occupied during the campaign of the emperor Septimius Severus , and then abandoned for some time.

The bath was repeatedly used and rebuilt, a significant part of its original structure was destroyed as a result of medieval and later settlements of this place, as well as obvious invasions of robbers in the 17th century.

Based on the large number of water voles at the study site and the presence of amphibian remains, the area likely experienced many floods that accumulated water there. Because of this, archaeologists compare the studied remains to the famous ” bog bodies “.

The human skeletons are generally well preserved. The age of people at the time of death varied from 18-25 years to 45 years and older (the bodies of babies were buried in the same place, but their connection with adults could not be confirmed).

On the remains lying above the rest, traces of erosion and weathering are noticeable – apparently, for some time the skeletons were exposed. One man, who died at approximately 26-35 years of age, had a healed injury to the right parietal bone and possibly a depressed linear fracture of the posterior part of the same bone.

On the skull of another young man of the same age, there are traces of a stab wound on the right parietal part. A girl (18-25 years old) was given a severe blunt trauma on the right side of her skull right before her death, and a woman over 46 years old received an ossified hematoma in the right parietal bone.

Analysis of bone collagen showed that the diet of these people consisted mainly of protein foods, meat from domestic animals, as well as secondary products such as milk. “Dependence on land-based resources and the lack of consumption of marine fish during the early Middle Ages, both on land and in coastal areas, is a trend that was observed elsewhere in England, Wales and Scotland during that era.

This is consistent with the idea that the consumption of marine fish has become more prominent since the 10th century.

The reasons are probably different: not only the influence of Christian dietary traditions after the Benedictine reform in England, but also increasing urbanization and the simultaneous / subsequent development of the fishing industry and trade in the North and Baltic Seas, ”the authors of the work write.

Based on the analysis of strontium and oxygen isotopes, it can be assumed that most of the people from the studied group were local, except for one man and one woman. Most likely, they were born and spent their childhood in the Inner Hebrides or Shetland Islands or in areas of “inland” Scotland, along the Western Highlands or Lanarkshire.

Thus, the results of scientists show that at that time the population was mobile and moved, and the social and cultural boundaries that existed between the various peoples of Scotland during the early Middle Ages were not rigid.

Although the two people were not born in Cramond, they lived there for a significant part of their lives and ate a similar diet to people identified as local. Since they were all buried together, this most likely indicates family ties or one community.

“There is speculation that travel during this period was limited given the lack of good roads and political divisions. However, analysis of the Cramond burials, along with other early medieval burials in Scotland, shows that it was not unusual for you to be buried far from where you grew up, ”the scientists noted. But, since some people died a violent death, it is impossible to talk about their long and prosperous life.


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