– In ancient times there were no fast trains or planes, but that did not stop our ancestors from traveling vast distanced and visit many foreign lands. A controversial discovery of two skeletons unearthed at a cemetery in London suggests ancient Chinese visited London during the Roman Empire.
This is extraordinary news because the finding is now challenging the traditional history of the Roman Empire and Britain’s capital city.
Londinium was an ancient Roman outpost that became powerful city of London. The Romans established Londinium on the current site of the City of London around 43 AD.
The first definite mention of the city refers to the year 60 AD and occurs in the writings of the Roman historian and senator, Tacitus, who wrote of a celebrated center of commerce filled with traders.
By the reign of Hadrian, Britannia was a fully developed province of the Roman Empire. One of the Roman outposts was Londinium, which eventually transformed into one of the world’s most famous modern cities – London.
Londinum is not a place where we expect to come across remains of ancient Chinese people and yet the recent discovery clearly shows the Roman and Chinese empires may have had more interaction than many historians had previously thought.
Using cutting-edge techniques, a team of archaeologists and scientists examined dental enamel samples from over 20 sets of human remains dated from between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD.
Dr Rebecca Redfern, curator of human osteology at the Museum of London, revealed two of the skeletons found at the site in Lant Street, Southwark, had been identified as possibly being of Chinese origin.
This is absolutely phenomenal. This is the first time in Roman Britain we’ve identified people with Asian ancestry and only the 3rd or 4th in the empire as a whole”, she told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.
The find challenges the dominance of the traditional view that Roman Britain, and specifically “Londinium” as it was then known, was a relatively homogenous society.We have previously seen there is certain controversial evidence suggesting ancient Chinese visited America 2,500 years ago.
Ancient Chinese were great sea farers and an advanced ancient civilization. It is highly possible they established relationships with the ancient Romans and trade took place between Rome and China outside of the famous Silk Road. At the same time, ancient Romans were also eager to expand their territories and progress as a civilization.
According to Dr. “the expansion of the Roman Empire across most of western Europe and the Mediterranean, led to the assimilation and movement of many ethnically and geographically diverse communities. Its power and wealth meant that it also had trade connections for raw materials and products, such as silk throughout Europe, Africa and also to the east, including India and China.
Many people traveled, often vast distances, for trade or because of their occupation, for example in the military, or their social status, for example if they were enslaved.”
The archaeological findings at a cemetery in London raise the possibility that Chinese traders settled in the area, and may have even set up their own trading communities.
However, scientists are not dismissing the idea these could also be remains of ancient slaves that originate from Asia, as there were slave-trade connections between India and China, and India and Rome.