Roman grave reveals that black people lived in York in the 4th century (UK)

Copyright Yorkshire Museum: The Ivory Bangle Lady skull
A British Roman grave reveals that York (England) was a multicultural society and that black people lived there in the 4th century. The evidence is a skull which was discovered in 1901 in Bootham York in a sarcophagus. The picture above is a computerised reconstruction of how the 'Ivory Bangle Lady' could have looked.

The ancestry assessment suggests a mixture of 'black' and 'white' ancestral traits. It seems likely that she is of North African descent, and may have migrated to York from somewhere warmer, possibly the Mediterranean.

The “Ivory Bangle Lady” will be the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum in August entitled Roman York: Meet the People of the Empire.

Archaeologists have discovered that wealthy black Africans lived in Roman Britain in one of the country’s earliest examples of multiculturalism.

Scientific research techniques have established that a lavish grave containing a woman’s skeleton, an ivory bangle, perfume bottle, mirror and jewellery, belonged to a North African member of York’s high society in the 4th century.

Her well-preserved remains showed that she was 1.5m (5ft 1in) and aged between 18 and 23. There were no signs of a violent death, and muscle markings showed that she had not lived a strenuous life, suggesting that she was affluent. Among the goods found in her grave was a bone with the inscription “Sor ave vivas in Deo” (Hail, sister, may you live in God), suggesting that she may also have been a Christian.

Hella Eckardt, who carried out the study, said: “Multicultural Britain is not just a phenomenon of more modern times. Analysis of the ‘Ivory Bangle Lady’ and others like her, contradicts assumptions about the make-up of Roman-British populations as well as the view that African immigrants were of low status, male and likely to have been slaves.”

The research, A Lady of York; migration, ethnicity and identity in Roman Britain, is published in the March edition of the journal Antiquity. The “Ivory Bangle Lady” will be the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum in August entitled Roman York: Meet the People of the Empire.

Read full story on Timesonline
Yorkshire museum: Africans in Roman York?

You learn something new every day. “Sor ave vivas in Deo”.


  1. 1.5 meter = 4' 11"
    5' = 1.524 meter
    Excuse me for being such a nerd......

  2. North African isn't Black African it's Berber or Phoenicians at the time.

    1. Wrong!!! Kinda. Modern Berbers and Phoenicians are a mixed race people of the original African Berbers/Moors and Europeans. During her time they all looked what there were African as did she. See, it's always wonderful to learn something new.

  3. Discover more of York's beautiful and rich heritage. Book luxury apartments york and get an awesome holiday now.

  4. I was listening to the radio this morning, just after they caught the last “Boston bomber”. For some reason I remembered a news story about a family in Yorkshire England said to be descended from an African, complete with uncommon surname. That's how I ended up here. What I remembered from the story was that the people involved didn't want their identity revealed.

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