Ivory Bangle Lady - Roman Empire Elite Burial Ivory Bangle Lady

Who Was the Ivory Bangle Lady--and Where Did She Get Her Ivory Bangles?

Blue Glass Jar from the Ivory Bangle Lady Burial
Blue Glass Jar from the Ivory Bangle Lady Burial. Kate Stuart

The Ivory Bangle Lady is the name given to an elite Roman burial in the town of York, north of the River Ouse and southwest of the legionary fortress. York, called Eboracum in Roman times, was founded in AD 71, as a fortress and civilian settlement and it was a provincial capital for the Romans in northeast England during their occupation.

The lady was discovered in 1901, buried in a stone coffin, aligned north/south, with the head facing north.

In addition to the jet and ivory bangles for which the lady is named, artifacts include beads, earrings and pendants of blue glass, jet and ivory, a glass mirror, and a blue glass jug. A rectangular fragmentary mount of bone, which may have been attached to a wooden casket, read in Latin "Hail sister, may you live in God". All of these artifacts date to the second half of the 4th century AD.

Ivory Bangles and North Africa

The Ivory Bangle Lady was between 18 and 23 years old when she died, and stood approximately five feet tall. There is no evidence of a cause of death; but she is believed on the basis of skeletal comparisons to have been from North Africa. Isotopic analysis suggests that she spent her childhood in the west of Britain, or perhaps the coastal areas of Western Europe and the Mediterranean Sea.

Although the provenience of the ivory hasn't yet been established, it is intriguing to think that she may have brought or been sent the ivory from her homeland.


This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to Roman Empire Ruins, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Leach SL, Eckardt H, Chenery C, Müldner G, and Lewis M. 2010. A Lady of York: migration, ethnicity and identity in Roman Britain. Antiquity 84(323):131–145.