A ROMAN brothel may have been uncovered by archaeologists investigating a mass burial of 97 infants in Hambleden.

Tests which were carried out on excavation finds from 1912 at the Yewden villa suggested the babies were probably killed soon after birth.

An examination of the remains, which were re-discovered in boxes kept at Buckinghamshire County Museum, revealed the babies died at 40 weeks gestation.

Dr Jill Eyers of Chiltern Archaeology told the Free Press it was highly unusual for all the children to have been the same age.

“We know with as many deaths as that couldn't be natural causes, they were murdered,” she said.

She recognised the site's striking similarities to a site in Ashkelon in Israel – which archaeologists have concluded was a brothel.

Lane End resident Dr Eyers believes the infants were systematically killed because they were unwanted births.

Although the killings sound horrific to us today, there was a different attitude in Roman times, she explained.

Children under the age of two were not considered to be a “full person”.

It was commonplace for babies to be buried in the garden of a villa, just as pets are today, she added.

“If you are poor and can't keep more children anyway, it's life in a hard world.

"Even in modern cultures babies are killed. As a mother and grandmother I find the whole idea abhorrent but you have to think back in to the time,” Dr Eyers said.

“As a mother and grandmother I find the whole idea abhorrent but you have to think back in to the time.”

Further evidence suggesting it could have been a brothel site comes from the area's geography.

Close by on the River Thames there was a unloading point for boats where it is likely soldiers stopped off to “refresh and possibly visit a brothel”, Dr Eyers said.

The route, which goes towards Henley would likely have continued up to Dorchester where there was a Roman army base.

Dr Eyers, who began her career as a geologist before switching to archaeology, said the findings are “hugely significant” for learning about Roman life in Britain.

She said: “We do need to do some more tests but if we are spot on this is the first. This is why everyone is so excited.

“This is the sort of information and data set that the Roman archaeologists have been looking for for years.”

Dr Eyers said she only expected it to be a small project when it began and was amazed by the flurry of media interest since Friday.

After interviews with television, radio and newspapers across the country, Dr Eyers is also set to appear on American news channel CNN.

“I feel like a celebrity and I'm a bit overwhelmed,” she said.

Further investigations need to take place and there may be additional discoveries to make.

The bodies of three adults, a six year old child and 18 month old baby were also found thrown into a pit, having apparently been murdered.

An excavation by Chiltern Archaeology's team of volunteers may take place next year.

The findings are set to feature in a BBC documentary and are on display in Buckinghamshire County Museum's exhibition Human: half a million years of life in Buckinghamshire, which runs until July 11.


THE archeologists have put a modern technological slant on their findings, using online video website You Tube and a mobile phone application.

To see these click on links below.