Archaeologists have come across an unusual find in the English city of Leeds. They discovered an ancient, previously unknown graveyard containing dozens of skeletons. According to estimates, the graves there are up to 1600 years old.

The most important find is the mortal remains of a woman who apparently lived in Roman times. The person was buried in a lead coffin, suggesting that they were upper class. Such a find is extremely rare, David Hunter, responsible archaeologist in the West Yorkshire region, is quoted in a press release from the city of Leeds.

“Lead coffins were expensive. The fact that this person’s family paid for the cost of sourcing lead plates and the know-how to make the coffin tells us a lot,” Hunter explained. His colleague Kylie Buxton, who supervised the excavation, was enthusiastic about the discoveries: Such a find was “incredible” and “every archaeologist’s dream”.

In all, more than 60 skeletons of men, women and children were found. The special thing about it: According to the findings so far, these are people from the late Roman period as well as those from the early Anglo-Saxon period in Britain, today’s Great Britain. The Romans left the island around 400 AD, but the immigration of the Angles and Saxons is only documented 300 years later. Very little is known about the interim period.

The experts hope to be able to fill at least some of the gaps with the help of the fund in Leeds. The latest discoveries have “the potential to be a find of enormous importance for what we know about the development of ancient Britain,” explained David Hunter. Next, the researchers want to carry out further investigations to date the finds more precisely and to find out whether the dead may have died of certain diseases or injuries. The lead coffin will then be exhibited in a museum.

Sources: City of Leeds press release / BBC