1,800-Year-Old Roman-EraMother-Daughter Burial Discovered in Austria

Archaeologists in Austria uncovered a 1,800-year-old Roman-era burial of a mother-daughter pair in the ancient city of Ovilava. The burial site, dated to around A.D. 200, contains the remains of two women, aged 20-25 and 40-60, buried arm-in-arm with a horse and golden pendants.

author-image
Nitish Verma
New Update
1,800-Year-Old Roman-EraMother-Daughter Burial Discovered in Austria

1,800-Year-Old Roman-EraMother-Daughter Burial Discovered in Austria

Archaeologists in Austria have made a groundbreaking discovery, uncovering a 1,800-year-old Roman-era burial of a mother-daughter pair in the ancient city of Ovilava, now Wels, Upper Austria. The burial site, dated to around A.D. 200, contains the remains of two women, aged 20-25 and 40-60, respectively, buried arm-in-arm with a horse and golden pendants.

Why this matters: This discovery provides a unique window into the social and cultural practices of the Roman era, shedding light on the lives of non-Roman elites and the persistence of Celtic traditions in the region. The findings also highlight the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to archaeology, combining radiocarbon dating, ancient DNA analysis, and visual inspection to reconstruct the past.

Initially, the burial was thought to be that of a male-female married couple from medieval times due to the unique positioning of the skeletons. However, a newanalysisusing radiocarbon dating, ancient DNA analysis, and visual inspection has revealed that the pair was actually a mother and daughter who lived during the Roman era. Anatomical analysis confirmed that both skeletons were biologically female, and DNA results showed they were first-degree relatives.

The researchers concluded that the individuals were a mother-daughter pair, with the daughter embracing the mother in the grave. Dr. Sylvia Kirchengast, professor of evolutionary anthropology at the University of Vienna and senior author of the study, stated, "It's very unlikely that two sisters have an age difference of 20 years during those times. So we felt that it's more likely that they are a mother-daughter pair."

The inclusion of a horse and gold pendants in the burial strongly suggests that the women were of high social status and non-Roman elites. Study lead author Dominik Hagmann noted, "To our knowledge, it's extremely uncommon for Roman people to be buried with horses. They were not a 'horse-people'." He suspects that these two individuals were from a Celtic culture still existing in Roman times.

Interestingly, the older skeleton shows signs of frequent horse riding, indicating that both women may have been enthusiastic equestrians. Experts not involved in the study, including Katy Knortz and Annalisa Marzano, agree that the mother-daughter relationship is the most probable scenario, given the typical age for childbearing women in the Roman period and the estimated age difference of 15-20 years between the two individuals.

This discovery marks the first genetically proven mother-daughter burial in Austria from Roman times, providing new insights into the social and cultural practices of the era. The unique burial customs, including the arm-in-arm positioning and inclusion of a horse, shed light on the persistence of Celtic traditions in the region during the Roman Empire's reign.