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Roman ‘skullduggery’ as Crossrail unearths human remains 2,000 years old

PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 October 2013

Alas, poor Roman... 2,000-year-old skull found buried at Liverpool St

Alas, poor Roman... 2,000-year-old skull found buried at Liverpool St

Archant

Human skulls going back to Roman times have been unearthed by contractors during construction of Crossrail.

Tunnelling engineer comes face-to-face with a Roman LondonerTunnelling engineer comes face-to-face with a Roman Londoner

Tunnel engineers working 20ft under Liverpool Street came across the remains dating back 2,000 years.

They carefully removed 20 Roman skulls found yesterday in the sediment of the ancient River Walbrook that runs underground from Shoreditch to the Thames—and are still finding more.

Previous discoveries have led to speculation that they were heads decapitated by Queen Boudicca’s troops during the rebellion against Roman occupation in the First Century AD.

But archaeologists now believe that the Walbrook eroded a Roman cemetery and washed the skulls and other bones downstream over the centuries.

Construction tunnel under Liverpool St where Roman skulls were unearthed... one is seen on leftConstruction tunnel under Liverpool St where Roman skulls were unearthed... one is seen on left

“This is an unexpected discovery—but not the first time skulls have been found in the bed of the Walbrook,” Crossrail archaeologist Jay Carver said.

“Many early historians suggested they were killed during the Boudicca rebellion. We now think the skulls are from a burial ground 150ft upriver.”

The Museum of London is to analyse the finds to learn more about the age, sex and diet of the Roman Londoners whose skulls are being unearthed.

Crossrail archaeologists have made several discoveries this year that have included skeletons from a suspected Black Death burial ground in the City, a medieval courtyard at Stepney Green, an early Victorian shipbuilding workshops at Blackwall, a Mesolithic tool-making ‘factory’ at North Woolwich with 150 pieces of flint dating back 9,000 years and a 16th century gold coin found at Liverpool Street used as a pendent by wealthy aristocrats or royalty.

The oldest find of all, however, was rare pieces of amber buried 50ft beneath the dock bed at Millwall Docks said to be 55 million years old, discovered in 2011 at Canary Wharf. Gas bubbles inside the amber gave scientists a chance to study conditions 55 million years ago.


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