Cotswold Archaeology has been working for the last 2 months on the site of a Roman cemetery alongside Tetbury Road in Cirencester in advance of the site being redeveloped as new offices for St. James’s Place Wealth Management by the developer Citygrove. The dig has been taking place to ensure that all Roman burials and other finds are fully recorded and lifted prior to the start of construction.
A large excavation
The dig at the former Bridges Garage on Tetbury Road has so far uncovered over 60 burials and four cremations. A previous excavation on the same site in the 1960s before the construction of the garage, unearthed 46 cremations, six burials and part of an inscribed tombstone dating from the 1st to 3rd Century.
Project manager for Cotswold Archaeology, Cliff Bateman, said: “It is amazing that so much archaeology has survived the comprehensive building works.”
As the current excavation works neared its conclusions the archaeologists began investigations of a large roughly worked limestone slab covering a grave. Upon further examination this proved to be a single slab with a carved triangular top which appears to have toppled over onto the top of a grave. The archaeologists hoped that this would prove to be a tombstone, reinforced when a carved margin became visible.
The tombstone, was lifted and turned over live on the BBC to reveal fine decoration and five lines of inscription in Roman ‘D.M. BODICACIA CONIUNX VIXIT ANNO S XXVII’.
The pre-eminent Roman specialist Dr Richard Reece was on hand at the site to translate the inscription, and revealed it read “DM [Dis Manibus, to the shade of the departed], Bodica, the wife lived years: 27”.
A young British Woman of wealth
Neil Holbrook, Chief Executive of Cotswold Archaeology said “Bodica is a celtic name, so it suggests this young woman was British, and perhaps local to Cirencester. She evidently married someone with money who could afford to pay for such a fine inscription. Curiously the lower half of the stone is left blank – presumably the husband intended his name to be added there when he died, but for whatever reason this didn’t occur.
“Perhaps Bodica is a local Gloucestershire girl who’s married an incoming Roman or Gaul from France and has adopted this very Roman way of death,” he added.
There are less than 300 inscribed tombstones from the whole of Roman Britain, and this is only the 10th from Cirencester itself. But what makes the find so exciting is that we seem to have a tombstone actually associated with the physical remains of the individual it records– so we actually know her name! We think this is unique in Britain – it is the sort of thing archaeologists only find in places like Pompeii. The tombstone dates to the 1st or 2nd centuries AD.
Cotswold Archaeology field staff have rediscovered the mortal remains and funerary monument to Bodica 1,800 years after she died. She will be respectfully removed prior to the development and her remains studied, and this will be only part of the whole process of analysing all the findings from the cemetery over the coming months and years.
A lucky find for Amanda
Amanda Hart, Director of the Corinium Museum, was especially pleased with the find, as she is giving a talk on Roman women in Cirencester at the Museum on 10th of March. and she will now be able to address one of Roman Cirencester’s women by name.