'Phenomenal' Discovery of Possible Chinese Skeletons Could Rewrite Roman History
Museum of London researchers unearthed two ancient skeletons of Asian ancestry buried at a Roman cemetery in London, giving new insights into the links between the Roman Empire and Imperial China.
Analysis found that the two skeletons, excavated at the site in Lant Street, Southwark, are dated between the 2nd and 4th Century AD and believed to be Chinese, History noted.
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"This is absolutely phenomenal. This is the first time in Roman Britain we've identified people with Asian ancestry and only the 3rd or 4th in the empire as a whole," Dr. Rebecca Redfern, curator of human osteology at the Museum of London, told BBC Radio.
According to Independent, the latest findings challenge traditional notion that Roman Britain was a homogenous society.
In fact, the evidences suggest that the relationship between the Roman and Chinese empires may have been deeper than previously thought. These also raise the possibility that trading took place via an old route known today as the Silk Road, Daily Mail noted.
"The expansion of the Roman empire across most of western Europe and the Mediterranean led to the assimilation and movement of many ethnically and geographically diverse communities," Redfern said.
However, historians and archaeologists differ in their views of how and why the Chinese individuals reached the Roman Britain.
The findings raise the possibility that London may have been an ancient cosmopolis rich with immigrant population. And the Chinese remains are believed to be among those ancient immigrants who settled in the area and possibly put up their own business.
Meanwhile, Redfern is also considering the idea that the individuals "were themselves or were descended from enslave people originating from Asia, as there were slave-trade connections between India and China, and India and Rome."
While there is no definite answers to the questions yet, researchers hope that rigorous study of the remains will shed some light on the mystery.
The study is published in the October issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.