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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsFurther reflections on Skull 8658. Since we first launched this exercise, exciting new evidence has emerged from analysis of the ancient DNA of Skull 8658. You will recall that the isotopic analysis of the skull was consistent with a local (i.e. British) upbringing, but work by Dr Eleanor Graham and Dr Victoria Barlow conducted at Northumbria University subsequently found traces of paternal DNA suggesting an Italian ancestry. How should we explain this? Well, to reiterate, most of the evidence we have suggests that actual Italians would have been a small minority in the cosmopolitan array of people who came to Britain while it was under Roman rule. There was of course, however, no barrier to those Italians who came over having families with non-Italians.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsThe results of the isotopic and DNA analyses do not necessary contradict one another therefore. In the past when we have encountered human body parts buried in and around Roman forts, as for example at the outpost fort of Newstead in Scotland, it has been tempting to assume that these were enemy warriors of local stock. A scene from Trajan’s Column in Rome, shows the Roman army on campaign in what is now Transylvania, and it shows heads displayed on poles, here too the assumption, probably correct, is these are bloody trophies taken from the bodies of local opponents.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 secondsYet, we do not have to look very far back into history to be reminded that brutal execution and the display of decapitated heads and or dead bodies, is not a fate reserved exclusively for outsiders. The owner of Skull 8658 may well have been a member of the Roman establishment, found guilty of a crime or perhaps merely of being on the wrong side of imperial power politics.

Further Reflections on Skull 8658

In the previous step we invited you to consider how Skull 8658 ended up in the ditch. In this short video Ian provides an update on what we now know about this.

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Hadrian's Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

Newcastle University

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