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Roman Britain

Romans in Trafalgar Square

Edited from BBC News, 1 December 2006

A Roman sarcophagus which was discovered near Trafalgar Square in 2006 was heralded as possibly leading to the map of Roman London being redrawn.

The limestone coffin contained a headless skeleton. It was found during excavations at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, in Central London. The find was dated to about AD 410, laying outside what had been the city walls of Roman London. Archaeologists had previously thought that Westminster possibly contained Roman roads but not sacred buildings.

Taryn Nixon, director of the Museum of London Archaeology Service, said at the time: 'It means that perhaps St Martin-in-the-Fields has been a sacred site for far, far, far longer than we previously thought.

'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.'

Sacred site

The vicar of St Martin's, the Reverend Nicholas Holtam, said: 'I can't tell you how thrilling it is to have discovered these finds. The history of St Martin's tells us that the earliest church which we know of on the site was present 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 that the skeleton's head was removed by workmen who were 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.

Sequential Maps of Roman Britain AD 43-410
Rome spent much of the second half of the first century AD expanding its line of conquests across the British Isles, but also facing the urgent situation which was created by the Boudiccan revolt in AD 61 - a prestigious architectural display of Roman power was needed to show these Britons who was in charge (click or tap on map to view the entire sequence)



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