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Crundale Grave 24

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posted on 2021-11-10, 14:58 authored by Helena HamerowHelena Hamerow
On the right hand of the last mentioned, and parallel to it, we found another grave. The skeleton was very sound, its teeth very much worn, and was not above five feet long, if so much; it lay at the depth of about two feet and a half below the surface. At its feet was a black urn, capable of holding about a quart; we got it out whole, but, a bystander taking it carelessly up by its rim, being heavy, and rotten withal, its weight broke out his hold, and, falling on a flint, it was broken in pieces. It was of a more globular form than any I had seen, and had a narrow mouth, but no neck. At the time of its fall it was almost fall of loose chalk; and, on examining its contents, I found what I had despaired of finding, namely, a coin. It was struck for the younger Faustina, the wife of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. It has the following legends, etc.; obverse, FAVSTINA. AVG. PII. AVG. FIL.; the head of the younger Faustina: reverse, FELICITAS. s. c.; a female figure standing, and holding a caduceus in her right hand; with her left hand she lifts up her garment. It is of the middle brass, and very fair. At the feet was also found, a confused mass of rusty iron, as big as one's fist; it had greatly the appearance of a chain (if it was such), whose links were not much thicker than a crow's quill, and about two inches long; it came entirely to pieces in handling; and, among its fragments, I found three little brass instruments, if I may call them so, each about one inch and a quarter long; and each had a small ringle at one end.[1] Here were also between twenty and thirty little round globules, each of them about the size of a small pea: perhaps they were beads; and I think they were of amber: they lay all together among the dust of some rotten wood. They crumbled to pieces with the least touch. The remains of a thick burnt coffin were to be found all over the bottom of the grave; and the urn, coin, rusty iron, brass instruments, and little globules, were all found together, in other dust of rotten wood (but which did not seem to have been burnt), at the distance of about three or four inches beyond the feet of the coffin; I mean more westwardly. There was a very discernible, though narrow, range of chalk, between the feet of the coffin and the dust, which was among the things just mentioned. I make no doubt but that this unburnt, rotten wood, was the remains of a small box, or chest; having, since then, found several such, at other places where I have dug. Here were also six large iron nails, much like those before described; and some other pieces of broken rusty iron, of which no judgment could be formed.The pleasure I felt on finding the coin, may be much more easily guessed at than expressed. I had, before I found it, no kind of doubt but that these remains were certainly Roman; but I had till now met with nothing from which I could form the least; guess at the time when they were deposited. But this is not only a convincing proof of their being really Roman, but, in some measure, ascertains the time of their interment. The ossuaries, indeed, were a sufficient testimony of their great antiquity; urn-burial, according to Macrobius, having ceased among the Romans in his time; and other writers assert that it ceased so soon as with the Antonines.[2] And the last emperor who bore that name, was Antoninus Elagabalus; a prince most unworthy of it, it having been first borne in memory and honour of that great and good emperor who, on account of his supereminent virtue and piety, was styled Pius. Elagabalus died about the year of Christ 222.[1]As before observed, several of the Crundale graves are Saxon. This will be obvious to every one who has attentively examined the details of the contents of the graves at Chartham, at Kingston, and other places; and who, at the same time, is acquainted with the character of Roman sepulchral usages. The curious little pendent ornaments here mentioned form one of the most interesting features of the costume of the Anglo-Saxon women. The coin of Faustina, it need scarcely be remarked, does not prove the interment Roman: it merely shows the use of Roman coins by the early Saxons, either as money, as ornaments, or for other purposes.- C.R.S.[2]Macrobius flourished in the time of Theodosius the younger, who died about the year of Christ 450. He says the custom of burning the dead had quite ceased in his days.-Macrob. Saturnal. lib. 7, cap. 7. Notwithstanding what they have asserted, and what I had no reason to disbelieve when I wrote this account, I am now fully convinced that urn-burial (at least in Britain) continued in practice a great while after the Antonines. For, in the year 1762, some labourers digging chalk on the north bank of the river Medway, in the parish of Frindsbury, found a large urn, full of burnt bones and ashes. And under it, a thin piece of ivory or bone, which lay on a piece of polished marble, like porphyry, and between the piece of ivory and the marble, were placed five very fair copper coins of Claudius Gothicus, Aurelian, Tacitus, and Probus; they are all in my possession. Dr. Brown, also, having found some coins of Posthumus and Tetricus, in the urns discovered in Bampeton Field, in Norfolk, in the year 1667, very justly infers, that 'urn-burial lasted longer than is commonly supposed, at least in this country,' Post. Works, p. 7.-B. F


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