The Beachy Head Lady is the first ever known Black British in history. She was given the name Beachy Head Lady because her remains were discovered at Beachy Head, Eastbourne, South Sussex. She is identified to originate from Sub-Saharan Africa and lived between 200- 245AD, in the middle of the Roman British Era which lasted between 43-410 AD.
First discovered in 1953, her remains were in perfectly good condition together with about 300 sets of human remains excavated from an Anglo-Saxon cemetery.
Nothing else was made out of her remains until in recent times, Archaeologist and Eastbourne Museums Heritage Officer, Jo Seamen, decided to re-examine the 300 excavated human remains as part of the Eastbourne Ancestry project.
In an interview, Officer Jo Seamen explained that his interest in the remains was because hers looked different and were in good shape. Huge sums of money were invested into finding out as much information about the remains.
The facial reconstruction of the Beachy Head Lady was done by Caroline Wilkinson from Dundee University, one of Britain’s best reconstructors.
Through examination, the Black-British of Sub -Saharan African descent, Beachy Head Lady, was estimated to be about 5.f ft tall and very healthy, having her teeth still in excellent condition. She is believed to have died in her late 20s living a life far from being a slave, servant or low-class citizen.
It is possible that the Beachy Head Lady was the mistress of a powerful Roman British or the wife of an official. It is also possible that she could have been the daughter of a successful sub-Saharan trader or a trader herself finally settling in Europe after a few years.
Her presence in history dating as far back as 1,800 years ago in 245AD indicates the presence of Africans in Britain centuries before slavery.
This is not the first time the remains of an African has been found in Britain. In 1901 in the city of Sycamore Terrace in York, the remains of the Ivory Bangle Lady was found buried in an expensive stone coffin with several pieces of jewellery and pricey grave goods including jet and elephant ivory bracelets that gave her the nickname The Ivory Bangle lady. She lived in the 4th century years after the Beachy Head Lady.
Both ladies were found in luxurious towns in Britain, and this goes a long way to demonstrate that Africans from Sub Saharan Africa travelled extensivly through trade and were living more prosperous lives than many locals in their day.
The restructured face and remains of the Beachy Head Lady was put on display for the general public as part of an exhibition by the Eastbourne Museum.
It’s fascinating that the former Duke of Sussex, Prince Augustus Frederic supported the abolition of the slave trade in the 19th century. In 2018, after marrying Prince William, Megan Markle, who is of African descent also became the Dutchess of Sussex.