Eastbourne Ancestors project has uncovered a rare archaeological discovery which dates back to the Roman period.
The scheme, which began in 2012 with around 300 skeletons dating from the Bronze Age to the Middle Saxon Period, produced surprising results when the remains of the ‘Beachy Head lady’ discovered near the beauty spot in 1953 were proven this month to be that of an African lady from around AD245.
The results of this and many more finds, will be shown in a fascinating Eastbourne Ancestors exhibition which opens mid December.
The Heritage Lottery Funded project, which has seen a detailed analysis of the origin, health, diet and social status of human skeletal remains, will use 2D and 3D cranio-facial forensic reconstructions, allowing modern day people to gaze into the eyes of their ancestors.
Heritage Officer, Jo Seaman, said the discovery was a ‘major find’ adding, “This is a fantastic discovery for the south coast. We know this lady was around 30-years-old, grew up in the vicinity of what is now East Sussex, ate a good diet of fish and vegetables, her bones were without disease and her teeth were in good condition.
“Without the context of seeing the burial site or grave goods, we don’t yet know why she was here, or her social status. However based on what we know of the Roman era and a similar discovery in York, it’s possible she was the wife of a local official or mistress of the extensive Roman villa which is known to be close to Eastbourne Pier, or she may have been a merchant, plying the trade routes around the Mediterranean up to this remote European outpost. Another theory is the rather more upsetting possibility that this lady may have been a slave, we just don’t know at this stage.”
The next step is to carry out more research to find out about the nature of her burial site and discovery in 1953.
The skeletons in the project are all discoveries from targeted archaeological digs or have been rescued from construction sites across Eastbourne and its Downland, and have been handed to the Heritage Service for safe keeping.
The display will take place at The Pavilion in Eastbourne and run until November 2014.