Archaeologists are delighted after they unearthed the remains of a 2,000-year-old female – gladiator.
Experts thought they had found the remains of a strapping male warrior when they unearthed the skeleton earlier this month.
But the shape of gladiator’s skull and pelvis proved that the remains belonged to a tough, muscular woman Roman gladiator.
The woman is believed to have fought blood-curdling battles as the Roman army pushed into Wales in 100 AD.
Project manager Robin Jackson, who led the dig in Credenhill, Herefordshire., said: ”When we first looked at the leg and arm bones, the muscle attachments suggested it was quite a strapping big bloke.
”But the skeleton’s pelvis and head, and all the other indicators of gender, say it’s a woman.
”She’s buried in quite an elaborate, and probably a very expensive coffin, yet she looked like she had a hard working life.”
Roman women were originally allowed to compete in the gladiatorial arena but the practice was banned in 200 AD.
Experts believe that the marks on the woman’s body suggest that she had fought – and survived – numerous battles in the arena.
The skeleton was found in a crouched position inside a wooden coffin reinforced with iron straps and copper strips.
Offerings of beef and a fired pot were also found in the grave and she was buried on top of a base of gravel.
The woman’s remains are believed to be connected to the nearby Roman town of Kenchester.
The Romans built a road from the town as their army pushed westwards into Wales in the first century AD.
Archaeologists believe the woman was buried in a suburb of Kenchester after being
cast out of the town’s cemetery.
The suburb was discovered after diggers from Worcestershire County Council and Herefordshire Council combed the site before flood defence building work began in 2009.
It was known that there had been a Roman settlement in the suburb alongside the road but it is now buried beneath fields and a footpath.
Archaeologist Robin added: ”This is a fantastic find which helps us to build up a picture of the Romans at the time.
”There was a lot of fighting going on and if the skeleton is that of a gladiator, judging by her size, she would have been a fierce opponent.
”None of the wood from her coffin is left, but we’ve got the nails around the outside then three huge giant straps that run all the way around the coffin.
”There’s also bronze strips on the corners which would have probably strengthened it, but probably decorated it.”
The last female Roman gladiator to be discovered was in Southwark, London in 1996.