Mysterious African In Ancient Britain: Slave Or Nobility?

Mysterious African In Ancient Britain: Slave Or Nobility?


The ancient world was far more cosmopolitan than imagined. Over at the Redoubt Fortress is the Eastbourne Ancestors exhibit, featuring the lives, and remains, of ancient Britons, along with a special woman found in the basement of a town hall. Gathering dust for nearly sixty years, the Beachy Head Lady gives new insight on the past. Forensic anthropologists are pretty certain Beachy’s from sub-Saharan Africa based upon her craniofacial features, even before they put clay to bone.

Her skeleton being in excellent condition, and her missing wisdom teeth, led archaeologists to be skeptical at first, believing they’ve found someone’s misplaced relative awaiting burial. Radiocarbon dating established she is over two thousand years old, but not her identity.

Was she a slave? Or might she have been of a higher station?



In the 21st century, wisdom tooth extraction is a painful, complicated, and, for Americans, expensive procedure. Performing the surgery on a mere slave in the ancient world must’ve been unheard of, even among the most magnaminous of masters. The fact her bones show no breaks, nor stresses one could ascribe to hard labor, deepens the mystery.

Maybe, and that’s a strong maybe, she was born in Roman Britain, the fruit of an ancient interracial marriage. Beachy could’ve been nobility. After all, nobles have the f-u money, doing as they please, regardless of the rabble. Dig the full article at Culture 24 for more insight on Beachy’s story, and the other awesome, ancient Britons on display.

So, slave or free woman? Let your voice be heard on our Facebook page, at Twitter, or in the comments below!


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  1. Fish

    04/03/2014 at 6:50 PM

    Perhaps a concubine brought to Britain from Africa by a Roman officer?

    • Chris Savia

      04/04/2014 at 5:10 PM

      You would go and bring up something saucy like that, Fish!

  2. The_McGuffin

    04/08/2014 at 1:27 AM

    Emperor Septimus Severus (193 – 211 CE) was from Leptis Magna, in modern day Libya, and contemporary depictions of him show him to have Sub-Saharan African features; so it’s not outside the realms of possibility that this lady may have been of high rank. The Romans were rather more advanced on matters of race in a lot of ways than we are, back then, Roman cities would have been a huge mix of people from all over the Empire and beyond, and the colour of your skin did not bar you from being a free Roman citizen.
    This doesn’t rule out the possibility that she was a slave, but back then a lot of white people were slaves too, and we shouldn’t automatically assume that “Black person in historical Europe = slave.”

    • Fish

      04/09/2014 at 9:19 AM

      Excellent point. Thank you.

      • The_McGuffin

        04/10/2014 at 1:24 AM

        Thanks – I’m looking back at my comment and it looks a bit pedantic. XD I’m a bit of a history buff (by no means an expert), and I remember reading about Septimus Severus being from North Africa.

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