The mysterious Roman tombstone with a ‘mismatched’ occupant beneath it


A tombstone with fine decorations and details in Latin had enticed many an archaeologist – since its location was found to be in a parking lot in Cirencester, in Western England. In other words, the discovery entailed a pretty rare find, with experts believing it to be the only tombstone from Roman Britain that recorded the person underneath it. To that end, the aforementioned Latin lines read – “D.M. BODICACIA CONIUNX VIXIT ANNO S XXVII”, and they possibly meant “To the shades of the underworld, Bodicacia, spouse, lived 27 years.” This pertained to a woman being buried underneath. But in twist of archaeological mystery, the tomb occupant’s skeleton was found to be that of a man.

So, the researchers naturally reverted to dating the two different components of the discovery – the tombstone and the occupant beneath it. Their suspicions were well founded, with the results showing that the tombstone was crafted far earlier in 2nd century AD, while the burial was made during late-Roman times in 4th century AD. This certainly suggests that the grave was ‘re-used’ during the latter chaotic times of Roman Britain. But it still remains a mystery when it comes to deducing the person to whom the tombstone was originally dedicated.

In that regard, the historians have shed some light into the origin of the tombstone itself. For example, the 5 ft tall stone with its fine inscriptions was most probably set into a bigger mausoleum wall. And interestingly, among the embellishments inscribed on the block, there is a stylized depiction of the Roman god Oceanus – with his regal mustache, long hair and even fantastical crab-like pincers projecting from the head.

However by 4th century, the tombstone might have been deliberately detached from its original location, while the depiction of Oceanus was (possibly) intentionally defaced. This act of vandalism may have mirrored the rise of early Christian iconoclasm. In any case, the very name Bodicacia is quite possibly a Latin variant to the Celtic name of Boudicca. To that end, a queen of the same name, hailing from the Iceni tribe (of Britain), led a famous insurrection against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in 1st century AD.

As for the tombstone in question here, it is expected to put on permanent display at Cirencester’s Corinium Museum.

Via: DiscoveryNews

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