York was known to the Romans as Eboracum. It owes its origins to the 9th legion that arrived in AD71 and built a great fortress on the north-east bank of the river Ouse. During the 2ndcentury AD, York became a major settlement spanning the river Ouse. By the early 3rd century it had become a Colonia, showing it had imperial favour.
The Roman buried their dead according to their laws outside areas where people lived, alongside roads where passers-by could remember them. Burial practices differed according to age, wealth and position in society.
In the first two centuries in Britain people began to adopt the Roman burial practice of cremation. Bodies of the dead were ceremonially burnt on a wooden bier and offerings made. The remains were then placed in a container and buried.
Around AD 200 the fashion began to change and the dead began to be buried intact in bath shaped graves. Iron nails show that wooden coffins were sometimes used, whilst the rich chose lead or stone coffins. Generations of families could be buried in stone built mausoleums.
It is thought that bodies were buried fully clothed with jewellery and other grave goods, such as pottery items. A number of Roman graves found in York have included food offerings, such as chickens.
Working with osteoarchaeologists, researchers and our own specialists we re-examined our extensive collection of material relating to burials in York from the Roman period as well as revealing information from new excavations. Sites explored include Blossom Street, Hungate and Newington Hotel on the Mount.