History August 01, 2018 at 04:30 pm

Ivory Bangle Lady: The mysterious and rich 4th century African woman whose grave was discovered in Britain in 1901

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson | Staff Writer

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson August 01, 2018 at 04:30 pm

August 01, 2018 at 04:30 pm | History

-photo-Yorkshire Museum

Through extensive research, her remains were first disc0vered in 1901 in the city of Sycamore Terrace in York, Britain. She was 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 “Ivory Bangle Lady”

Bangles found in the grave of the Ivory Bangle Lady
-photo- Yorkshire Museum

There are no details that indicate her real name or how she managed to be of high status in York but extensive forensic research has been able to uncover that she was of North African descent and might have settled in York after migrating through the military or trade. Another case argues that although she is of African descent, she could have been the daughter of Rich African merchants who settled in Britain. The Black Ivory Bangle Lady is also believed to be of mixed raced but with a larger African origin.

She is said to have lived in the 4th century at the time when York was known as  Eboracum, a Roman provincial capital and the largest town in northern Britain. Eboracum flourished and had visitors from several kings and rulers and was very involved in trade. Many women and children are said to have moved freely with the help of the military. It is believed to be a city that encouraged and started multi-cultural systems.

She lived a very wealthy life. Studies indicate that she went through no form of significant physical labour and enjoyed her life in York although it was very short. Her skull indicates that she died at a young age between 18-23 years old and was buried with a box that had the inscription ‘Hail, sister, may you live in God’ on it. The inscription indicates that she could have been a Christain.

Even though not much is documented about her life yet, the discovery of the nameless woman nicknamed  “Ivory Bangle Lady” goes a long way to change the narrative of Black history that says that blacks found in Western societies were mostly slaves or of lower struggling class who were slowly wiped off and only reintroduced into the society through slavery.

It will be interesting to find out more about this mysterious rich lady buried with wealth. Her history might just uncover a very significant chapter in African history.

The research was conducted by the Archaeological department at the Universty of Reading.

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