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Anantis Castle
New Southgate
Tarrant Gunville

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The Source:

Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy et al:
"A late Roman Cemetery at Little Keep, Dorchester, Dorset"
Wessex Archaeology Ltd, Salisbury, no date

The Case

In 2007 there were Archaeological excavations on a late Roman burial ground near Dorchester. Of the 29 graves that were examined, 5 of the skeletons had been decapitated. They were the remains of 2 women and 3 men. I quote:

"In each case, the skull and neck vertebrae above the point of severance had been placed at the distal end of the grave adjacent to or over the leg/ankle, though space for the head in the correct anatomical position was maintained within the grave."

To me the fact that there was space left at the place where the head should have been, strongly suggests that in first instance these people were normally buried. And that the removal of those heads to place them at their feet may have taken place at some later stage. I quote:

"Removal of the head the seat of wisdom and placing it out of position, may have represented a way of confusing the dead and ensuring they did not return."

Without written evidence it is impossible to know what has happened to these people. But I feel that there is enough physical evidence to suggest necrophobia. Reason enough to add this case to our collection.

The Date:

Based on the dates of the various coins that were found with the skeletons, I am happy to file these burials as 5th Century.

The Place:

Dorchester can be found close to the English South Coast, North of Weymouth.

Possible Follow-Up:

Go find and study this report by Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, Nicholas Cooke, Jacqueline I. Mckinley, Lorraine Mepham and Rachael Seager Smith. There is a wealth of interesting material in there.

2014 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed December 2014

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