Ancient roman sarcophagus found at London building site

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The sarcophagus is unearthedImage copyright PA
Image caption Archaeologists believe it was the coffin of a high status inhabitant of Roman London

An ancient Roman sarcophagus has been excavated from a building site in central London.

The 1,600-year-old coffin found near Borough Market is thought to contain the remains of a mother. The bones of a baby were also found nearby.

Archaeologists lifted the lid of the stone coffin on Tuesday and found small bones and a broken Roman bracelet in the surrounding soil.

Experts believe it had been previously been opened by grave robbers.

As a result the archaeological team team behind the discovery are not certain the infant was buried with the coffin.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Experts discovered the coffin six months into the dig as they were due to finish their search
Image copyright PA
Image caption The coffin was found on Swan Street last month

The coffin was found several metres underground with its lid slid open, and historians suspect it was targeted by thieves in the 18th century.

Gillian King, senior planner for archaeology at Southwark Council, said: “It’s been broken into two pieces, probably when robbers broke into it during the post-medieval period.

“We hope that they will have left the things that were of small value to them but great value to us as archaeologists.

“We always knew this site had the potential for a Roman cemetery, but we never knew there would be a sarcophagus.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption The location is a prime spot for historical finds
Image copyright PA
Image caption The sarcophagus will now be taken to the Museum of London’s archive for analysis

The coffin was found on Swan Street last month after the council told developers building new flats on the site to fund an archaeological dig.

Researchers discovered the coffin six months into the dig as they were due to finish their search.

They believe it contains the body of a high status inhabitant of Roman London, but they will not know for sure until the bones and soil inside are tested and dated.

The sarcophagus will now be taken to the Museum of London’s archive for analysis.


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