This is the face belonging to an ancient skeleton buried in Roman times, created using the latest 3D reconstruction technology.
The so-called ‘Beachy Head Lady’ – because she was discovered in the East Sussex beauty spot – had her face recreated using craniofacial reconstruction techniques.
Her skeleton was first discovered in Beachy Head 1953, and she is thought to have lived around 245 AD- the middle of the Roman period in Britain.
Unusually Beachy Head Lady is from sub-Saharan Africa which was outside of the Roman Empire.
This is the face of an ancient skeleton buried in Roman times, created using 3D reconstruction techniques
Experts are not entirely sure how she ended up in Britain, but researchers believe Beachy Head Lady probably grew up in the area and was possibly the wife or mistress of a local official at a nearby Roman villa.
Another theory is that she was a merchant trading wares in Europe and chose to settle in the country.
Jo Seaman, heritage officer at Eastbourne Borough Council, said: ‘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.
Researchers used the size of the skull and traces of where the muscle would have met the bone to build up a picture of Beachy Head Lady’s appearance
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT BEACHY HEAD LADY?
- The female’s skeleton suggests that the woman was around 30 years old when she died in 245AD.
- Experts believe she grew up in Sussex despite being from Sub-Saharan Africa.
- This is especially interesting as this area was beyond the reaches of the Roman Empire.
- Because she was not found with any grave goods, archaeologists are unable to deduce what social status she was.
- It is however possible that she was the wife or mistress of an official.
- She may also have been a merchant traveller too.
‘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.’
Mr Seaman said that isotopes showed the Beachy Head Lady was raised in or around Eastbourne from a young age. He said the skeleton was in good condition with no signs of hard labour.
Eastbourne museums paired up with the University of Dundee to use Radio-Isotope Analysis to examine bones and teeth for trace elements absorbed from food and water during an individual’s lifetime, giving a geological fingerprint to the region in which they grew up.
Her full skeleton is on show for the first time to the public at Eastbourne Borough Council’s museum service which was awarded a grant of £72,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Beachy Head Lady’s full skeleton is on show for the first time to the public at Eastbourne Borough Council’s museum service which was awarded a grant of £72,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund
Beachy Head is a chalk headland in Southern England, close to the town of Eastbourne
The skeleton makes up part of the Eastbourne Ancestors project at the museum.
The aim was to identify the gender and age of each skeleton in its collection to build up stories about them.
Testing of the bones and teeth has identified the national or regional origins, age, gender, state of health, diet, and in some cases, how they died.
The researchers were also able to use the size of the skull and traces of where the muscle would have met the bone to build up a picture of her appearance.
Most of the skeletons are Anglo-Saxon, from about 1,500 years ago, but some are Neolithic and more than 4,000 years old.
Eastbourne Borough Council Cabinet Member for Tourism and Leisure, Cllr Carolyn Heaps said: ‘It is very exciting to open the first local history related exhibition in ten years.
‘The exhibition is focused on telling the stories of those that date back to Prehistory, giving an insight into what they may have worked as, what cultures they may have adopted as well as their age and gender.’
The skeleton was first discovered in Beachy Head (pictured) in 1953, and she is thought to have lived around AD245 – the middle of the Roman period in Britain