(ORDO NEWS) — Skeletons of two Roman-era women and a baby found in England testify to a “family tragedy”. Experts believe that the mother, fetus and mother-in-law became infected and died at the same time.
The grave was found in Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, and DNA sequencing of the three skeletons was part of a new project by historians.
Human bone specialist Sharon Clough said the three’s family connection was “a completely unexpected discovery.”
Clough said: “Obviously, a tragedy happened to this family, and their loved ones tried to make sure that in the afterlife the women retained the connections that they had in their lives.”
The tomb was unearthed during excavations carried out in 2018 and is considered “unusual” as most tombs from the late Roman or early Saxon era contain only one body. Here in one grave rested two women and a fetus.
Radiocarbon dating of the three skeletons indicates that their burial took place between 255–433 AD.
Clough, who works at Cotswold Archeology, added that an analysis of the bones showed that one woman died around the age of 25 and the other around 45.
Meanwhile, the age of the premature baby is estimated at 32-36 weeks, but it is not clear if the baby was still in the womb or had already been born at the time of burial.
Previously, it was assumed that the women were from the same family, but certainty was gained after further analysis of the bones.
DNA analysis confirmed that the younger woman and fetus were mother and child, while the older woman is genetically related to the child but not related to the child’s mother. Most likely, the older woman was the mother-in-law of the young one.
It also turned out that the deceased child was a boy.
The bones will be kept at the Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury for future research as archaeological and genetic techniques continue to develop.
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