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Gladiators: Back From The Dead

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The savagery of gladiatorial battles was depicted as Channel 4 investigated the discovery of 80 skeletons at a York archaeological dig.


As reported in The Press, the 80 skeletons, the majority of large, powerfully-built men dating from Roman times, were found at a dig in Driffield Terrace, Holgate.


TV documentary – Gladiators: Back From The Dead – examined the theory that the men were gladiators, based on evidence which included the fact some had injuries which may have been inflicted fighting at an amphitheatre, one of the most telling being a bite mark from a large carnivore such as a tiger or bear.


The men were also all buried with some respect and their final resting places included grave goods as well as large joints of meat – making it less likely they were executed criminals.


But the theory they were gladiators is still open to dispute. As yet there has been no evidence of an amphitheatre found in York and there is nothing conclusive about the men’s injuries.


They could have been inflicted in battle and there were no injuries from weapons like the three-pointed trident which were specifically used by certain types of gladiator.


Because of this York Archaeological Trust has set up a website offering the public the chance to have their say. Opinions can be left at at headlessromans.co.uk.


John Walker, York Archaeological Trust’s chief executive, said: “This is a fascinating discovery that gives a real insight into the world of interpreting archaeology.'


“With archaeology, you are very rarely dealing in the definite. There are almost always elements of ‘possibly’ and ‘probably’ and the archaeologist’s job is to weigh up the evidence and make an informed judgment on the most likely explanation.”





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