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Gladiators - Back from the Dead

As part of a routine building inspection in the outskirts of York, archaeologists discover an ancient Roman burial site. It soon became apparent the find was anything but routine.

In total 80 skeletons were unearthed, in itself nothing unusual in a city whose history dates back thousands of years, but the closer the archaeologists looked at the remains the more anomalies began to appear. The position of the burial site, combined with the fact that most of the bodies were in individual graves, were early indicators that the people had been buried with a degree of respect. But the contents of the graves quickly dispelled this theory.

75 of the skeletons were men, a much higher majority than would be expected in a family grave site. The height, build and signs of musculature made the men much bigger than that of the average Roman man. A closer inspection of the bones also revealed a number of cut marks and fractures, evidence the men were no strangers to violence. Most disturbing of all most of the men had been brutally decapitated.

A military cemetery, executed rebels ? It was left to lead archaeologist Kurt Hunter-Mann to propose the most radical theory of all: could the men be gladiators?

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October Films in association with National Geographic and History Channel for Channel 4
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