Remains of a Roman slave with an iron nail of about five centimeters driven into the heel bone were found in Cambridgeshire and are, at the moment, the «best example in the world of crucifixion» and the first evidence of this practice ever found since UK. Archaeologists unearthed the skeleton during an excavation in the village of Fenstanton in 2017 and have just completed their analysis of the macabre find. Radiocarbon dating placed the finds between 130-337 d.C.
The man’s skeleton – believed to be 25-35 years old at the time of his death – was found alongside traces of a wooden structure he was buried with. Rather than a cross, however, the team believes this may have been a type of board called a “coffin” on which the corpse would have been placed after death. The fact that no other nails were found in the man’s body suggests that he was tied, during his ordeal, to a separate wooden structure – probably another plank.
Slave scrocifisso in Gb, the discovery
The nail that went through his heel, the archaeologists said, probably did not support his weight, but to «make him stop squirming». Physical evidence of crucifixion – rather than documented descriptions of the practice – tends to be rare, as the victim’s remains were usually unceremoniously disposed of and nails removed for their magical properties. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why the victim may have been crucified. For some, it is thought that extreme penalties (possibly including burning at the stake) were imposed for serious crimes. These may have included, for example, political ratios such as treason or sedition, desertion from the army, destruction of graves, certain types of murder and rape. However, status would also come into play, with higher-ranking ones tending to receive less extreme penalties while, the researchers explained, «almost anything could condemn a slave to crucifixion».
In one case, for example, a female slave was crucified simply for refusing to testify against her mistress. Roman law also famously dictated that if a slave killed his master, all of that man’s slaves, including women and children, were executed, often by crucifixion. Cambridge University archaeologist Corinne Duhig told MailOnline that the Fenstanton man «it could be a slave who has committed a crime or a misdemeanor».