Reviewed by Valerie on 11th November, 2013
Hella Eckardt, senior lecturer in Roman Archaeology at the University of Reading spoke on the research project:
‘A long way from home — Diaspora communities in Roman Britain’. This is a developing science
based on more than 150 skeletons from Roman Britain which were examined to find out about migration in the Roman world.
Techniques including ancestry assessments and isotope analysis suggested that people from both warmer and colder areas
came to Britain, including individuals of possible African descent, migrant women and children.
Hella descried the diverse variety of people living in Romano-British towns, how many were foreigners and what
sources of evidence pertained. Inward migration stemmed from career officials and soldiers of the Roman Empire.
From 2218 inscriptions on monuments and tombstones of 121 migrants, it was possible. using this epigraphy to map
migration from a town or region into the area.
There was also isotopic evidence of human remains. She explained that diaspora theory is about creating and
maintaining identity in communities dispersed among other people and how these people mix or interact and move around.
Assessments can be made from diet, health, artefacts/burial rites, migration isotopes, and isotopics. It is the case
that overall facial features vary across geographical spread (phenotypic); forensic analysis enables reconstruction
of facial features of individuals.
The conclusion drawn was that significant numbers of individuals can be defined as non-local, coming from outside
Great Britain, both from warmer and colder climates.
These techniques now make it possible to convert hundreds of hours of archaeology into computerised data and come
out with extraordinary answers.
Publication of the results of this project aroused interest in the national press.