Amesbury Sarcophagus

3rd Century AD

This sarcophagus was discovered by Wessex Archaeology in 2007 during the excavation of a large Roman cemetery near Boscombe Down, Amesbury. When the lid was lifted it was found to contain the remains of a woman who was holding a young child in her arms.

A unique environment had been created inside the coffin. Moisture trapped within the sarcophagus had slowed down the processes of decay so that, even after 1800 years, the woman’s deer skin slippers still survived. The child was buried wearing calfskin shoes. The woman also wore a necklace of Whitby jet, and on her right ankle was a silver and copper alloy bangle. By her head was a small pot imported from France.

The use of a stone sarcophagus is a rare method of burial reserved only for people of importance. It is made from limestone quarried near Tisbury and would have been expensive to make and transport. There is one very unusual feature: the base has been carefully shaped, but the lid is in two pieces and does not seem to fit. Perhaps this was a last minute replacement because the original lid had been accidentally broken.

Note that the image shows the sarcophagus as discovered by Wessex Archaeology - the human remains are not display in the museum.

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Of particular significance in the collection are the relics of the ancient guilds of Salisbury.