Iron Age and Roman sites collection

A series of skulls from Cannon Street

A series of crania from Iron Age or Roman sites

These Iron Age and Romano-British remains were recovered from multiple sites across London over the last 170 years.  

Strengths of the collection

Found predominantly in the City of London and Southwark during deep excavations for building works, these remains tell us the stories of the native Londoners and immigrants living in the growing metropolis of Londinium. 

Bevis Marks

SK_165

This individual (SK_165) was found between Bevis Marks and Houndsditch, near Aldgate, in the late nineteenth century. The remains were found a with stone displaying Roman inscriptions.

  • Burial context: unknown, 1 cranium.
  • MNI: 1, adult, probable male.
  • Pathology present: benign osteoma, dental caries, linear enamel hypoplasias, dental enamel attrition.
  • Donated by: Royal College of Surgeons.

Commercial Road

These remains were recovered from Commercial Road, near the Limehouse Cut, in 1906 during excavations for work on a gas main.

Archaeological excavations show evidence of prehistoric and Roman activity in the area.

  • Burial context: articulated burials, 2 crania.
  • MNI: 2, 2 adults, 2 males.
  • Pathology present: ante mortem tooth loss, caries and dental abscesses.
  • Donated by: F Corner Collection.
Cranium of an adult male excavated from a site in Commercial Street

Cranium of an adult male excavated from a site in Commercial Street

Fenchurch Street

This individual was found 20 feet below Fenchurch Street in a pit dated to the first century.

  • Burial context: unknown, 1 cranium.
  • MNI: 1, adult, female.
  • Pathology present: possible osteoarthritis of the occipital condyles.
  • Donated by: Royal College of Surgeons.
Skull of an adult female showing osteoarthritis of the occipital condyles.

Skull of an adult female from Fenchurch Street, showing possible osteoarthritis of the occipital condyles.

Goswell Street sewers

These individuals were found in a six-metre-deep shaft excavated in 1962 during building works on Milton Street, just north-east of the Barbican Centre. These remains are stained due to high levels of iron in the soil.

  • Burial context: unknown. 2 crania, fragments of 7 femora, 2 tibiae, 1 fibula.
  • MNI: 3, all adults, 2 probable females, 1 indeterminate sex.
  • Pathology present: None evident.
  • Donated by: London City Council.

Kent Street

These crania were recovered at a depth of 16 feet from current day Tabard Street (then named Kent Street) in Borough in 1847.

  • Burial context: unknown, 2 crania.
  • MNI: 2, 2 adults, 2 male.
  • Pathology present: signs of metabolic disease, benign osteoma.
  • Donated by: F Corner Collection. 
Adult, male crania from Kent Street

Adult, male crania from Kent Street

King Street

This cranium was recovered from a depth of just over four metres from King Street and Tennis Court (now Newcomen and Tennis Streets) in Borough in 1893.

  • Burial context: unknown, 1 cranium.
  • MNI: 1, adult, indeterminate sex.
  • Pathology present: None evident.
  • Donated by: Royal College of Surgeons.
View of the right side of the cranium of adult from King Street

View of the right side of the cranium of adult from King Street

King William Street (Fish Street Hill)

These remains were recovered in 1929 from one of the earliest Roman quays in London, at the current site of Regis House. Archaeological evidence from this site showed signs of extensive destruction by fire, which has been suggested as evidence of the Boudican revolt.

  • Burial context: unknown, 4 arm bones.
  • MNI: 1, adult, probable male.
  • Pathology present: well-healed, non-specific periostitis.
  • Donated by: Royal College of Surgeons. 
Arm bones of an adult, probable male individual from King William Street

Arm bones of an adult, probable male individual from King William Street

Leman Street and Great Prescott Street

These remains were uncovered during building works on the corner of Leman Street and what is now Prescot Street (formerly Great Prescott Street) in Whitechapel in 1931. Archives indicate that nearly a dozen articulated burials were uncovered as well as cremated remains in a burial urn. A copper-alloy bracelet was found with one individual and a coin was found on the skull of another individual. The coin, an antoninianus of Claudius Gothicus, dates from 268-270. From subsequent excavations conducted in this area we now know that these remains come from the large East London Roman cemetery.

  • Burial context: articulated burials, 3 crania and fragments of crania and post crania. 
  • MNI: 6. 6 adults, 1 sub adult. 2 probable male, 2 probable female, 2 of indeterminate sex.
  • Pathology present: possible healed depression fracture. 
  • Donated by: LG Ekins of the Cooperative Wholesale Society. 
Adult skull from the East London Roman cemetery

Adult skull from the East London Roman cemetery

Minories

The cranium of an adult male was found during the excavation of the rail line at Minories in 1882. This site lies just outside of the eastern wall of the Roman city and is likely to have been part of the East London Roman cemetery.

  • Burial context: unknown, 1 cranium.
  • MNI: 1, adult, male.  
  • Pathology present: dental enamel attrition. 
  • Donated by: purchased in 1882.
Cranium of an adult male excavated near Minories

Cranium of an adult male excavated near Minories from the East London Roman cemetery

Old Broad Street

These remains were recovered from Old Broad Street. Archaeological evidence suggests that during the Roman period this area of the City had multiple tributaries of the Walbrook running through it. The dark brown staining of these remains indicates burial in alluvial (river) sediment, similar to the remains recovered from the Thames.

  • Burial context: unknown. 2 crania, 2 mandibles.
  • MNI: 3, 2 adults, 1 sub-adult.
  • Pathology present: dental wear, dental calculus.
  • Donated by: Mrs Dobson Hinton.
Sub-adult excavated from Old Broad Street

Sub-adult excavated from Old Broad Street

Waterloo Station

This cranium was recovered during excavations at Waterloo Station in 1880.

  • Burial context: unknown, 1 cranium.
  • MNI: 1, adult, probable male.
  • Pathology present: three benign osteomas, dental attrition, dental calculus, linear enamel hypoplasias.
  • Donated by: London and South Western Railway. 
Cranium of adult, probable male excavated from Waterloo Station

Cranium of adult, probable male excavated from Waterloo Station 

Looking for a specific specimen?

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Collections team

Principal Curator

Dr Heather Bonney

Curator

Dr Rachel Ives

Curatorial assistant

Jennifer White

Any questions?

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Further reading

Related information

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Accessing the collections

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