ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Salisbury’s twin town have unearthed hundreds of Roman graves with some of the skeletons still bound by shackles on their necks and ankles.

Saintes, in south west France, is celebrating its 25th anniversary of twinning with Salisbury next year and the skeletons were found 250m away from the amphitheatre which is one of its cultural gems.

Built in the first century AD, it hosted fights between gladiators and wild animals.

Caroline Rippier, the Salisbury twinning chairman, said: “The amphitheatre is a magnificent building and I am sure that many people in Salisbury will have had a chance to see it over the last 25 years. It was originally built to house the entire population of the town which at that time was about 15,000 so you can get an idea of the size.

“It is great that this news has come ahead of the 25th anniversary of the twinning.

“The Mayor is being invited over to Saintes to mark the occasion and may well meet the unfortunate skeletons.

“The association’s mission is to foster cultural, commercial, sporting, educational and social links between the citizens of Salisbury and Saintes. This certainly ticks the cultural box.”

Salisbury Journal:

Shackled – a skeleton found in Saintes - Picture: Frédéric Méténier

The site was first identified as a possible necropolis last year and scientists are now hoping they can establish the individuals’ cause of death.

Roman necropoleis were usually constructed in the country as a site for burials and cremations to take place away from tombs built within a city.

Yet the graves at Saintes have yielded very few artefacts or possessions.

Only a few vases were found with the remains of one man, and a child was found with coins resting on his eyes.

Roman custom was to place coins on the eyes of the deceased so the person’s spirit could pay the ferryman to take them across the river Romans believed divided the world of the living and that of the dead.

Salisbury Journal:

Picture: Frédéric Méténier