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Archaeologists find a necropolis of stillborn babies

Excavations by the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) have unearthed a necropolis for stillborn and young children in the historic centre of Auxerre, France.

According to a press statement by Inrap, the site is part of a larger necropolis for the general population of Roman Autessiodurum and was specifically designated as a burial ground for stillborn babies and children between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

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Autessiodurum was a Gallo-Roman centre on the main road of the Via Agrippa, emerging as the provincial capital during the Roman period.

Excavations have revealed that the necropolis was situated outside of the Roman city boundaries, however, during the 4th century, a fortified enclosure (castrum) was constructed over the burial site.

Archaeologists have found stillborn babies and infants burials in the necropolis who are placed in ceramic containers and wooden coffins, or beneath amphora fragments and long curved tiles. In one example, a grave is marked with a stone engraved with a rosette.

According to archaeologists from Inrap: “Up to five levels of tombs have been observed, which, in the current state of research, is unique in the Gallo-Roman world where the integrity of the tomb must be preserved.“

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The experts also note that some burials have destroyed earlier ones, indicating that space for burials was limited at the time, or that the allocation of space was influenced by the status of the deceased child.

Excavations also found broken ceramic crockery near many of the burials on circulation levels, suggesting the depositing of funerary offerings for the dead and the gods. “In order to protect these young deceased people, objects intended for protection in the afterlife (called “apotropaic” or “prophylactic”) accompany them, such as a pearl, a coin, a spindle. A miniature ceramic cup was also placed at the head of a young child,” said Inrap.

Header Image Credit : Inrap

Sources : Inrap

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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