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2,000-year-old ‘cold case’ opens into teenage girl’s mysterious death in Roman London

PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:27 27 July 2018

Roman teenager who died in mysterious circumstances 2,000 years ago. Picture source: Museum of London Docklands

Roman teenager who died in mysterious circumstances 2,000 years ago. Picture source: Museum of London Docklands

Docklands London

Children’s author Caroline Lawrence is starting a hunt to find out what happened to a teenage girl whose 2,000-year-old remains were discovered near London Bridge.

Author Caroline Lawrence launches hunt to find out why teenage girl died 2,000 years ago. Picture source: Museum of London DocklandsAuthor Caroline Lawrence launches hunt to find out why teenage girl died 2,000 years ago. Picture source: Museum of London Docklands

Caroline is one of the stars of ‘ancient Roman’ activities being staged at the Museum of London Docklands during August.

Her time-travelling detective powers as author of the Roman Mysteries novels are being revealed with readings from her latest work to be published next April, The Girl with the Ivory Knife, about the skeleton of the 14-year-old held in the museum’s Centre for Human Bioarchaeology.

“This is my first time travel book,” Caroline revealed. “Learning about ancient bones has taught so much about Roman London.”

Analysis of bones and teeth show the teenager had blue eyes and was European, possibly growing up North Africa and coming to Roman London aged nine—but mysteriously died five years later.

What Romans did for their dead... exhibitions staged at Docklands museum in August. Picture source: Museum of London DocklandsWhat Romans did for their dead... exhibitions staged at Docklands museum in August. Picture source: Museum of London Docklands

Her remains were discovered at a building site in Lant Street buried with exotic grave goods including a knife with a leopard-shaped ivory handle, which all go on display in the ‘Roman Dead’ exhibition at the museum in Canary Wharf’s West India Dock Quay.

The exhibition also features staged Roman funeral processions which helped the departed make it through Londinium’s underworld to the afterlife.

The ancient Romano-Britons loved a good funeral and often had money, food and trinkets placed in their graves that their souls would need for the journey.

The exhibition runs throughout August, with funeral processions staged at 11.30am, 1.30pm and 3pm showing burial practices in ancient ‘Londinium Ad Orientem’—what we call ‘East London’.

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