Tales from Trauma: Life and Violence in the Roman Colonia of Gloucester? (awarded 2021)

The Tales from Trauma project is investigating origins and mobility of the mid 3rd to late 4th century population of the Roman colonia of Gloucester, using the latest bioarchaeological methods. It will focus on individuals recovered from a large cemetery discovered along Barton Street, one of several large cemeteries used in Gloucester during the Roman period. Preliminary assessments of this cemetery population by Cotswold Archaeology and the University of Exeter have identified a significant level of trauma, around 13% higher than the average for Romano-British cemeteries. This anomalous result, along with the presence of intriguing artefacts, such as a continental cross bow brooch, suggests that the cemetery was used to inter a particular sector of Gloucester’s Roman society that experienced unusually violent lives. Here, we seek to deploy an array of methods to tell the individual stories behind these traumas and investigate the biogeographic origins of the Barton Street cemetery population: forensic bioprofiling (including assessments of trauma and cause/manner of death), isotopic assessments (diet and migration), and aDNA analysis (biogeographic origin, interrelatedness, and infectious pathogens present). The analytical work is scheduled to take c.8 months, with planned outputs occurring in 2022 including academic publications, public presentations and a museum exhibit.