Celtic lady rouses worldwide interest

When Neil Holbrook and his small archaeological team began a dig on a derelict garage site on the outskirts of Cirencester in 2011 they did so without any great expectations. However, just below the surface they discovered the remains of about 70 people – a rewarding find indeed. Despite some problems with petrol leakages and gas levels many sections were well preserved and the indications were that it was a 1st/2nd century cemetery.

However, these were not normal graves as Romans at that time cremated their dead. There was also evidence of status, mainly grave goods such as an enamelled bronze cockerel figurine, one of the best ever found in Britain.

Returning in 2015 before new building started on the site, they found more graves – a final total of about 120. One large stone was initially ignored but once cleaned it began to excite great interest. The BBC came to film the lifting and, despite Neil’s fear that it might be nothing, in fact the underside displayed spectacularly clear lettering naming a woman called Bodicacia, a Celtic name meaning victory. But there was a conundrum – the skeleton underneath was that of a man.

The top of the stone was elaborately carved representing the Roman god Oceanus. Obviously the stone had been moved but why and by whom? Maybe Christians who did not want pagan symbols perhaps. The placing of the stone over the grave was deliberate. This is unusual, but there were many unusual features and consequently many questions over interpretation. It has aroused worldwide interest and Neil’s presentation was certainly outstanding – one which other Painswick groups may like to consider.