Britain’s Earliest Easter Bunny Found at Roman Palace
Experts have found the remains of Britain’s earliest rabbit - a discovery which reveals bunnies arrived in the country 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.
When did rabbits first come to Britain?
Rabbits are native to Spain and France. It had been thought they were a medieval introduction to Britain, but this fresh discovery has pushed that timing back by more than a millennium.
This is a tremendously exciting discovery and this very early rabbit is already revealing new insights into the history of the Easter traditions we are all enjoying this week. Professor Naomi Sykes, University of Exeter
An exotic pet
Britain’s earliest rabbit doesn’t bear any butchery marks, and another analysis suggests it was kept in confinement. The inhabitants at Fishbourne Palace were known to be wealthy and kept a varied menagerie, so the rabbit could have been an exotic pet.
How the discovery was made
The four-centimetre segment of a tibia bone was found during excavations in 1964 but it remained in a box, not recognised, until 2017, when Dr Fay Worley, Zooarchaeologist at Historic England realised the bone was from a rabbit. Genetic analyses have proved Fay was right.
Academics from the University of Exeter, Universities of Oxford and Leicester, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council carried out the analyses as part of the Exploring the Easter E.g. project, together with Historic England and Sussex Archaeological Society.
Further research is ongoing that will reveal where the rabbit came from and whether it's related to modern bunnies.
This find will change how we interpret Roman remains and highlights that new information awaits discovery in museum collections! Dr Fay Worley, Zooarchaeologist at Historic England