History Files


Roman Britain

London's Last Roman

Edited from BBC News, 23 May 2007



Part 1 Part 2

Part 1: London Roman's remains go on show

The remains of what experts believe was one of the last Romans to have lived in London formed the centre-piece of an exhibition which opened in May 2007.

Visitors to the Museum of London were able to see the headless skeleton of a man, thought to be in his late thirties or early forties, laid in a limestone coffin.

It was found last year when a 36m building project was undertaken at St Martins-in-the-Field, in Central London.

Curators said the man's death dated back to about AD 410.

Wealthy and respected

Describing the find as "hugely significant" experts said the man had died around the time at which Roman administration was kicked out of Londinium (located under the modern City financial area), and the imperial court itself at Ravenna was forced to abandon any pretence of governing Britain.

Francis Grew, senior curator at the museum, said the man would have been wealthy and well-respected and may even have been a "commuter" into the Roman city of Londinium.

"The man in the coffin may well have been living in a substantial Roman villa estate somewhere around Trafalgar Square - a big country house maybe with a little village, even, associated with it," he said.

The sarcophagus, along with a Roman tile kiln, Saxon grave goods and pottery unearthed at the site, sheds light on a "hidden" two hundred year period in the history of the capital, the museum said.

A clay pot dating from about AD 500 suggests that the Saxon settlement of Lundenwic, built on the site of what is now Covent Garden, was established at least a hundred years earlier than previously believed.

Jewellery, glass and metal vessels found in graves of people buried on the site after AD 600, who may have been Christians, were also on show at the museum.

The display at the museum in the City ran until 8 August 2007.

Roman sarcophagus

The headless Roman lies in a limestone box

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