One hemlock tea to go, and will there be fries with that, your Majesty?

Test digs at the site for new homes and apartments in Birmingham have revealed to British archaeologists what may be the grave of an ancient warrior queen, Boadicea. Tacitus tells us that Boadicea ended her life by poison following a great defeat that ended the lives of “little less than eighty thousand of the Britons” and only “about four hundred” Roman soldiers. Boadicea led a rebellion against the Roman Emperor after the death of her husband and the rapes of herself and her daughters by Roman centurions and slaves that took the Iceni kingdom as a spoil of war after Boadicea’s husband, King Prasutagus allied himself with Rome after the conquest of Claudius.

Wikipedia cites a London legend which has it that Boadicea is buried under a platform of Kings Cross railway station at Battle Bridge Road, where the battle is thought to have occurred, though its exact location has been unknown –perhaps until now. Archaeologists working the site at the Birmingham McDonalds say that Boadicea’s final battle took place in the Midlands and that the McDonalds sits on Parson’s Hill “on the route to Metchley, the Roman fort in Birmingham and it’s for this reason, if no other, that we think this could be where the battle took place.”

Archaeologist Mike Hodder is quoted by the Telegraph as saying, “”There’s no doubt it’s an important archaeological site. Whether it has anything to do with Boadicea is nearly impossible to prove, but there are certainly Roman remains found there.” News sources only indicate that the artifacts found so far include Roman “pots and other implements” and no mention (to date) of identifiable grave goods or items that may have been Boadicea’s.

What I found interesting in the few stories that have made the various news outlets so far is that we have, yet again, another example of an important archaeological find in the midst of modern society’s advancement. Cultural resources like this can easily suffer terrible fates if steps aren’t taken to properly survey sites of development and document or preserve artifacts found. Obviously, British cultural resource management techniques have snagged a potentially important find and, even if it turns out not to be Boadicea, the artifacts themselves are priceless in the information they can provide. Information that may not be useful to researchers now, but their contexts may provide the critical link in some future research endeavor.

Sources for the “Boadicea” story
The Telegraph: Fact, myth and legend
The Telegraph: Boadicea may have had her chips on site of McDonald’s Boadicea’s grave ‘under McDonald’s restaurant’ in Birmingham
Wikipedia: Boadicea Braveheart with a Bra

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