The Ivory Bangle Woman, so called because of the jewelry she was buried with, was seemingly one of the wealthiest women in Eboracum, or Roman York. Archaeologists have recently proved that she was African.
Where Rome was, so was the world. (The Mediterranean, North Africa and Europe, at least.) In Roman York, one did not have to be from one tribe or another– one could be Roman despite being born elsewhere. It is difficult to imagine this in modern Yorkshire, where ideas of what is British can often seem quite narrow. But these ancient streets were once full of people from many different places– and they were not just slaves or men hired to be laborers or soldiers. The modern tourist trade here may give us a glimpse of this diversity, but a migrant is not a tourist. (Though I’m often mistaken for the later, despite living in England for over seven years now, but I digress.)
As an immigrant, you become a paradox, of two places at once, and none but another such stranger can understand this way of being.
I wonder at this woman, far from her first home in the sun. What did she make of this green island, her new home? She died here, accumulated wealth and was loved. Her grave goods on display in the Yorkshire Museum have fascinated me. The beautiful objects, 16 centuries old, are simple, elegant and evoke the mixture of who she was. A perfect blue glass bottle from the workshops in Cologne and two bangles: one of African ivory– the other, Whitby Jet.