Lead "Burrito" Sarcophagus Found Near Rome
A 1,700-year-old sarcophagus found in an abandoned city near Rome could contain the body of a gladiator or a Christian dignitary, say archaeologists who are preparing to examine the coffin in the lab.
Found in a cement-capped pit in the ancient metropolis of Gabii, the coffin is unusual because it's made of lead—only a few hundred such Roman burials are known.
Even odder, the 800 pounds (362 kilograms) of lead fold over the corpse like a burrito, said Roman archaeologist Jeffrey Becker. Most lead sarcophagi look like "old-fashioned cracker boxes," molded into a rectangular shape with a lid, he said.
The coffin, which has been in storage since last year, is about to be moved to the American Academy in Rome for further testing.
But uncovering details about the person inside the lead coffin will be tricky. For starters, the undisturbed tomb contained no grave goods, offering few clues about the owner.
What's more, x-ray and CT scans—the preferred methods of coffin analysis—cannot penetrate the thick lead, leaving researchers pondering other, potentially dangerous ways to examine the remains inside.
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