Shackled skeletons discovered in ancient Roman burial ground in France

Shackled skeletons discovered in ancient Roman burial ground in France

Shackled skeletons discovered in ancient Roman burial ground in France

Archaeologists in south-western France uncovered hundreds of Roman tombs, some of which contain skeletons still bound by shackles on their necks and ankles.

A skeleton uncovered at the Roman burial site pictured exactly as the individual was buried – with an iron shackle attached to his neck

The amazing excavation is located at a construction site about 250 m west of the Saintes amphitheatre once used for battles between gladiators and wild animals.

Among the hundreds of graves found, five skeletons – four adults and one child – were found shackled or chained.

 The tomb site was thought to have been an important nécropolis used for the massacred at the nearby stadium, dating back to the first and second centuries AD.

Three skeletons were found with iron chains attached to their legs, another was buried in a crude shackle around his neck and a child was found with a device on its wrist.

Several of the graves were found to be mass burials – pictures show individuals buried side-by-side, head to toe in trench-style graves.

A wider photo shows the same skeleton – thought to be a man – with a shackle on his ankle as well as his neck

The site was first identified as a possible necropolis last year and scientists are now hoping they can establish the individuals’ cause of death.

Roman necropoleis were usually constructed in the country as a site for burials and cremations to take place away from tombs built within a city.

Unfortunately, the graves at Saintes have yielded almost no artefacts or possessions.

This group of four people was buried head-to-toe in a small, trench-style grave

Only a few vases were found with the remains of one man, and a child was found with coins resting on his eyes.

Roman custom was to place coins on the eyes of the deceased so the person’s spirit could pay the ferryman to take them across the river Romans believed divided the world of the living and that of the dead.


The period of Roman rule across what is now France is commonly referred to as Gallo-Roman, and the graves discovered in Saintes this week fall within this category.

The period in which the graves were used – the first and second centuries AD – corresponds to a time in history when Saintes’ was a thriving Roman town.

It was established as a regional capital during this period because of its location where the major road between Lyon and Acquitaine met with the Charente River.

It is famed for its Roman Colosseum-style arena, which when completed, held up to 18,000 people.

Construction on the area started during the reign of Tiberius (14 – 37AD) and finished under Claudius (41 – 54AD). It is the largest and oldest remaining Roman amphitheatre in France.

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