Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Young Woman Buried with her Jewellery

This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.

Roman skull missing the lower jaw, a blue glass jug, some bangles and beads.
Roman Skull with Grave Goods


This female skeleton was found in York in 1901, but it dates back much further, to Roman times. We can find out a lot of information about this person's life, by examining her teeth, bones and facial features; we can also tell that this woman was wealthy. Her body was buried with a collection of unusual and expensive jewellery, including glass earrings from Germany, and bangles of elephant ivory from Africa. Writing carved from bone buried with her meant that she might have been a Christian, or else that she believed in the Egyptian god Serapis.

Close up of three bangles from the grave, including one ivory one.
Bangles from a Roman Grave


She was buried close to the legionary fortress in Roman York, which suggests this young woman may have been the wife or daughter of one of Eboracum’s high-ranking military officials (Eboracum was the Roman name for York). However, although she may have lived a wealthy and luxurious life, it was short. This woman was not even 20 when she died. Scientists examining her skeleton think she may have died because her body couldn't fight off infections and she also had blood circulation problems.

Blue glass jug with a handle.  It has been broken and put back together again.
Jug From a Roman Grave

Young person's response to this object

I find it really interesting how people in some cultures are buried with their most treasured and prized possessions. It possibly suggests that death is not the end. Jordan Kieghley

 

Discussion Ideas

  • Eboracum was the Roman name for York. What other towns or cities do you know that have changed their name over time?
  • Because this young woman's skeleton was found near a Roman fortress, it's likely that she lived between the 1st and 4th Centuries. What do you think life was like nearly 2,000 years ago? Look at the links below to find out more information about Eboracum.
  • It's not so common for people to have things buried with them now, but if it was, what items would you like to have buried with you and why?

 

In the video below, Emily asks the question: Did Romans care about their appearance? and examines related artefacts from Leeds Museums & Galleries collection.