A Roman sarcophagus discovered near Trafalgar Square could lead
to the map of Roman London being redrawn.
The limestone coffin containing a headless skeleton was found
during excavations at St-Martin-in-the-Fields Church, central
The find, which dates from around AD 410, lies outside what were
the city walls of Roman London.
Archaeologists previously thought Westminster possibly contained
Roman roads but not sacred buildings.
Taryn Nixon, director of the Museum of London Archaeology
Service, said: "It means that perhaps St-Martin-in-the-Fields has
been a sacred site for far, far, far longer than we previously
"This gives us an extraordinary glimpse of parts of London we
haven't seen before, particularly Roman London and Saxon London.
"All of a sudden we're having to rethink what Roman London
really was. This work has literally stopped us in our tracks and
given us a new phrase, Roman Westminster."
Vicar Rev Nicholas Holtam said: "I can't tell you how thrilling
it is to have discovered these finds.
"St Martin's history tells us that the earliest church that we
know of on the site was there in 1222, but these discoveries take us
way before that.
"It's certainly a sacred site, possibly a Christian site, going
right back into the late Roman period."
It is thought the skeleton's head was removed by workmen
building a sewer during the Victorian period.
Excavations began at St-Martin-in-the-Fields in January 2006 as
part of £36m renovations at the church.