Druid Grave Unearthed in U.K.?

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From the discovery.com article:

Historical records tell of a mystical, priestly and learned class of elite individuals called Druids among Celtic societies in Britain, but there has been no archaeological evidence of their existence. Until, perhaps, now.

A series of graves found in a gravel quarry at Stanway near Colchester, Essex, have been dated to 40-60 A.D. At least one of the burials, it appears, may have been that of a Druid, according to a report published in British Archaeology.

Mike Pitts is the journal’s editor and an archaeologist. He studied classical Greek and Roman texts that mention the Druids in early France and Britain. The most detailed description, Pitts found, dates to 55 B.C. and comes from Roman military and political leader Julius Caesar.

“Druids, he says, were prestigious ritual specialists who performed human sacrifices, acted as judges in disputes, were excused action in battle and taught the transmigration of souls — when you die, your soul is passed on to another living being,” Pitts told Discovery News.

Other historians link the Druids to soothsaying and healing practices.

Within the wooden, chambered burial site, researchers have excavated a wine warmer, cremated human remains, a cloak pinned with brooches, a jet bead, divining rods (for fortune-telling), a series of surgical instruments, a strainer bowl last used to brew Artemisia-containing tea, a board game carefully laid out with pieces in play, as well as other objects.

“This person was clearly a specialist and also clearly wealthy and powerful, as indicated by the special grave and its apparent location within the compound of a ‘chief.’ That would all fit Caesar’s Druid,” he said, adding that Caesar likely also visited Stanway during his lifetime.

The surgical kit found in the grave includes iron and copper alloy scalpels, a surgical saw, hooks, needles, forceps and probes. Pitts said the collection mirrors basic medical tools from other parts of the Roman world.

Read the article here.

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4 Responses to “Druid Grave Unearthed in U.K.?”


  1. 1 100swallows February 14, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Isn’t it sad that the greatest authority we have on the Druids is Julius Caesar? His Gallic Wars isn’t exactly a great work of anthropology. One theory is that he wrote the political and military parts and had a team of helpers season the work with a little folklore. There are some real howlers in there. Remember the one about the strange beast that needs a tree to lean on?

  2. 2 westernparadigm February 14, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    It would be nice to know more factual information about the Druids but I guess it is the fate of those who don’t write their own history to have it written for them. I don’t remember the one about the strange beast that needs a tree to lean on. Was that a reference to the wicker man? It has been awhile since I read the commentaries.

  3. 3 100swallows February 16, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Here’s that passage about the beast, which for some reason Ms. Hammond calls an elk.
    “There are also animals called elks. Their shape and dappled coat are like those of goats, but they are rather larger, have stunted horns, and legs without joints. They do not lie down to sleep: if they are struck by some unexpected misfortune and fall down, they cannot raise themselves or get up again. They use trees as couches, leaning against them to secure a modicum of repose and so taking their rest. When hunters track their spoor and find their customary resting place they either weaken the base of the trees there by digging the earth out from under them, or they cut through them—thus the impression is given that the trees are still standing. When the elks lean against the trees as usual, their weight knocks them over: elk and tree fall down together.”
    From the Sixth Book, paragraph 27, of The Gallic War, by Caesar, translated by Carolyn Hammond

  4. 4 westernparadigm February 16, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I looked in my copy of the commentaries where you indicated and it calls the beast “elk” also. My Translation is by H.J. Edwards. It is a strange story. Thanks for pointing it out.


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