Butchered? Or merely builders?
According to the TV and newspapers in Britain this week the objects of attention here are two of eighty skeletons of ancient British gladiators, victims of wild beasts, swords and axes, once upon a time butchered in York to make a Roman holiday and featured two thousand years later to entertain us once again.
At the TLS we remain a little sceptical. Maybe these men did die before a baying crowd in a provincial Colosseum. Or perhaps they were among the more numerous animal hunters or construction workers of their time.
Archaeologists need publicity just as do fund-seeking researchers in every discipline these days. Museums and TV companies need visitors and audiences. So if some excavated bones, made incomplete by bestial bites and slicing, can be presented to the grateful media as a gladiator cemetery, everyone is happy.
Why should we worry?