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Roman Britain

London's Last Roman

Edited from BBC News, 23 May 2007

Part 1: London Roman's remains go on show

The remains of what experts believed at the time was one of the last Romans to have lived in London formed the centrepiece 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. The coffin and its contents had been discovered in 2006 when a 36m building project was undertaken at St Martins-in-the-Field, in Central London.

Curators stated that the man's death dated to about AD 410.

Wealthy and respected

Describing the find as 'hugely significant', experts at the time stated that the man had died around the time at which Roman administration had been 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 (see related links in the sidebar).

Francis Grew, then 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 (then lying to the west of the city, in open countryside), perhaps in a large country house, perhaps even with a little village associated with it,' he said.

The sarcophagus, along with a Roman tile kiln, and later Saxon grave goods and pottery which was 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 which arose 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 which was found in the graves of people who had been buried at the site after AD 600, and 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.

Part 1: Roman's Remains
Part 2: Lost Centuries
Roman sarcophagus

The headless Roman lies in a limestone box (click or tap on image to read more on a separate page)



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