« Back to the previous page
|LARA Record Number
The Roman colonia was, typically, ringed with cemeteries. They appear to have been most extensive along the five main roads leading east, north-east and north from the upper city. The cemeteries alongside Greetwell Road, Wragby Road, Nettleham Road and Newport might have joined up to form a single area, beyond the extramural settlements, through which the roads passed. There were further burial grounds east of the lower city, occupying both the flatter land behind the quayside installations, and the hill-slope above. To the west of the city, cemeteries were laid out both on the brow of the hill west of the upper city wall and occupying the sloping ground along the line of the modern West Parade. In all these cases, but especially to the south of the Witham, the 'public' space of the cemetery was 'privatised' by the encroachment of strip buildings in the later Roman period. In these cases the care and ceremony with which this transition was managed will reveal a great deal about the Roman attitudes to their own past in Lindum and to their own dead. Similar transformations from 'public' to 'private' space might have taken place in the suburbs outside the east and west gates of the upper city.
As the record of the people of Lindum, the cemetery archaeology represents one of the most important sectors of Lincoln's archaeological resource. Whenever work is undertaken within RAZ 7.24 paleo-osteology will be necessary, with the aim of eventually building up a detailed picture of the physical characteristics of the population. In particular we should aim at understanding whether or not the large populations of the colonia burial grounds represent a large internal population within the colonia itself, or was it more the case that the population of the surrounding countryside was brought to the urban cemeteries for burial. We believe we can demonstrate that the town was a focus for regional administrative and economic activity, and we have already stressed the close connections between 'public' and 'ritual' gestures in the Roman city. This might lead us to expect that the cemeteries of the Roman city were regarded with favour, not just as a necessary amenity by the resident population, but as a desirable funeral location by the population of the surrounding countryside. Here, we might think, the dead were thought to receive the physical protection of the gods of the city, both traditional (in the shape of the Celtic water spirits) and imperial.
It may also be possible, eventually, to assess not just the local domicile of the burial population, but its racial background, through the study of minute skeletal differences, but this will mean detailed work being undertaken on every find over a long period of time. The infant discipline of Archaeogenetics is rapidly developing towards a state where it can be used to assess, not just family kinship, but also the geographical ranges of populations. Although the judgements involved are more complex than might at first appear (Millett 1999, 196-7), such studies should eventually contribute to an understanding the likely percentage of Roman citizens in the population, and consequently some understanding of how closely a colonia's population was tied to army service.
Given that it is thought that Lindum was the seat of one of the early British bishoprics, it would be a matter of very great interest to identify specific Christian burials. Was the Christian community of Lindum buried in separate enclaves within the larger cemeteries or did it open up its own exclusive burial grounds. So far no Roman Christian burial has been identified, although there might be some room for debate about the affiliations of some of the earliest burials at SP72. The search for the distinctiveness of Christian burials should not blind us to the interest of the distinctiveness of burials made under the influence of different belief systems. We have evidence for the cult of Mercury in the south part of the city (RAZ 7.20) and Mercury is the most important of the Roman psychopumps. Consequently burial rituals in the city as a whole (but perhaps especially in the south part of the city) might show some distinctive ritual of passage. Similarly the slight evidence for the Mithraeum in this part of the city should prompt us to search for rites of burial which might be characterised as Mithraic, although we currently have little understanding of the burial rites which were specific to Mithras. Many of these ideological research questions might be addressed in a basic way through a better understanding of the part played by planning in the graveyards. Were any of them planned? And if so in what ways?
Cemeteries also offer one of the best opportunities to study gender relationships within the community. The patterning of burials within graveyards by gender and differences between individual male and female burials are likely to provide information about contemporary gender relationships, and might reflect any changes in such relationships over time.
The boundaries of the RAZ follows those identified by Mr Jones in chapter 7a.