The object was discovered in the city centre of York (northern England) in 1688. The tombstone had been broken in half and originally the construction workers planned to reuse the stone; fortunately, however, the uniqueness of the artifact was noticed.
What do we know about the man? Rufinus was from Vienna, France. The man served as a signifer, i.e. a legionnaire ensign, responsible for the centuria sign (signum). During the battle, he relied entirely on his comrades-in-arms, for whom the death of the signifer and the loss of the standard was a great disgrace. Outside of battle, the signifer was in charge of the legion’s financial affairs, including keeping the legionaries’ savings and payroll. Signifer performed an important function in the army, for this reason, he belonged to the so-called duplicarii, i.e. he received double pay.
Rufinus belonged to the legion XI Hispana, which in about 71 CE was moved to York (Roman Eboracum), and was there until the beginning of the 2nd century CE. According to researchers, Rufinus probably died around the late 1st or early 2nd century CE.
On the tombstone, the man is shown with the symbols of his military position. In his right hand, he holds a banner, decorated with five phalerae medallions and a hand on top. In his left hand, Rufinus holds a small chest, which probably contained wax tablets with written finances.
Rufinus’ tombstone was located on the road leading to the Roman fort in York, so that his comrades-in-arms would remember it. In ancient times, the object was colourful, and its erection required adequate financial resources.
Due to the fact that he was officially buried, archaeologists believe that he probably did not die in battle with the enemy. We do not know exactly who financed the facility, but due to the large grave, it can be assumed that the man belonged to an association in the army that was responsible for the burial, in return for a regular membership fee.