Dozens of skeletons found beneath the garden of a former 18th Century mansion are probably those of professional fighters who fought, and died, for the entertainment of the ruling Romans.
The remains of around 80 people were discovered during building work at a site to the west of the city centre in 2004, but their likely origins are only now being revealed thanks to extensive forensic analysis.
Almost all the corpses are of robust young males, many of whom met their death by decapitation between the late first and fourth centuries AD.
Archaeologists initially suspected that they were Roman soldiers loyal to Emperor Severus who were executed in the bloody aftermath of his traitorous son Caracalla’s coup in 211 AD.
But researchers from the York Archaeological Trust, which is leading the investigation, have now discovered tantalising evidence that the men were actually Gladiators brought to Britain from across the Mediterranean to fight at an as-yet-undiscovered amphitheatre.