You might think that African immigrants are a fairly recent addition to the British scene.
But the discovery of a 1,700-year-old skeleton has turned that idea on its head.
Bones unearthed on the site of a Roman cemetery in Warwickshire are the remains of an African man, archaeologists have concluded.
The discovery, made during analysis of remains found near Stratford-upon-Avon, suggests that African immigrants lived far afield of major settlements, such as London and York, as early as the third or fourth century.
Stuart Palmer, Warwickshire County Council’s archaeology projects manager, said the find was surprising because it indicated that people of African descent lived in Warwickshire far earlier than historians thought.
Mr Palmer said: ‘African skeletons have previously been found in large Romano-British towns like York, and African units are known to have formed part of the Hadrian’s Wall garrison, but we had no reason to expect any in Warwickshire, and certainly not in a community as small as Roman Stratford.’
Experts think the skeleton, found in the Tiddington Road area of Stratford during a dig in 2009, may be that of a slave or a former Roman soldier.
A report by experts in excavated remains established that the man was of African descent and was probably in his 40s or 50s when he died.
Mr Palmer said the skeletal remains also revealed that the man was heavily-built and that the condition of his spine showed he was used to carrying heavy loads.
Although the cause of the man’s death has not been established, examination of his bones found evidence of arthritis and a childhood plagued by disease or malnutrition.
Mr Palmer added: ‘He could, for instance, have been a merchant, although based on the evidence of the skeletal pathology it is probably more likely that he was a slave or an army veteran who retired to Stratford.’