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Frankincense found within Roman coffin.

TRACES of frankincense, dating back to not long after the birth of Christ, have been found in a Roman coffin lifted from a field in North Warwickshire.

The 1,600-year-old burial site was discovered by a metal detectorist and tests have been carried out by a team of archaeology experts from the county council.

They have revealed evidence of rare frankincense, olive oil and pistachio resin among other unique items, including two pieces of jewellery, left inside the lead-lined box.

It had contained the body of a young girl - given the Latin name Oriens by archaeologists after a public vote - and had been buried near what was once a Roman fort on the outskirts of Mancetter.

Stuart Palmer, from Archaeology Warwickshire, said: "From the beginning, our investigations into the remains of Oriens have been exciting and unexpected.

"We have said all along this find had the potential to shed a great deal of light on funerary practice from Roman Britain 1,600 years ago and we have not been disappointed.

"The presence of frankincense, and the other resins, places the child as one of only a very small number of Roman burials that indicate a high status individual, buried using very expensive Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern burial customs.

"This is one of the first indications that continental burial practices were kept alive in Roman Britain, even for the burial of children, and that these burials, using resins that would have required importing from the Middle East."

The coffin, which was unearthed in October last year, also contained two Jet bangles and some milk teeth.

More tests will now take place to try and determine the age of the girl.

County councillor Jeff Clarke, portfolio holder for heritage and the environment, said: "We are proud in Warwickshire to have the in-house expertise in archaeology to be able to professionally excavate, store and study this remarkable find and also the knowledge and passion that is already working towards telling Oriens' story, which gets more fascinating with each instalment."

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 23, 2014
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