Ancient Roman transvestite unearthed in UK

skull AP Pete Wilson holds the skull of a 4th century castrated priest in a grave at Catterick,north Yorkshire. Photo: PA

London - The remains of a young Roman man who dressed as a woman and probably castrated himself show a previously unknown side of Britain's ancient history, archaeologists said on Tuesday.

Excavations at Catterick, northern England, unearthed the skeleton of a fourth century man buried wearing a jet necklace and bracelet, a shale armlet and a bronze anklet.

"He is the only man wearing this array of jewellery who has ever been found from a late Roman cemetery in Britain," Dr Pete Wilson, senior archaeologist at English Heritage told Reuters.

"In life he would have been regarded as a transvestite and was probably a gallus - one of the followers of the goddess Cybele who castrated themselves in her honour."

Although the skeleton was discovered in 1981, it took nearly 20 years for archeologists to work out the puzzle of a male body adorned with female jewellery.

The mother-Earth goddess Cybele was worshipped in noisy public festivals and would-be priests castrated themselves using special ornamented clamps.

Post-castration, Cybele's priests wore jewellery, highly coloured female robes and turbans or tiaras complemented by female hair styles.

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