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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Professor Rebecca Gowland

Millett, M. & Gowland, Rebecca (2015). Infant and child burials rites in Roman Britain: a study from East Yorkshire. Britannia 46: 171-189.

Author(s) from Durham


The discovery of infant burials on excavated domestic sites in Roman Britain is fairly common but
in the past these burials have often been dismissed as a product of unceremonious disposal. There
is a growing literature which considers the phenomenon, but it has been dominated by debates around the suggestion that these burials provide evidence for infanticide, with a focus on the osteological evidence for and against this hypothesis. There has been less systematic consideration of the archaeological context of such burials. In this paper we examine the excavated evidence of two large groups of such burials from sites in East Yorkshire which demonstrate that the burial of neonatal infants followed a careful age-specific funerary rite. We suggest that this conclusion further undermines the widespread assumption that infants were
disposed of without ceremony and as a result of infanticide.