Home Estate Planning Haul of Roman relics unearthed at Holborn Viaduct excavation site

Haul of Roman relics unearthed at Holborn Viaduct excavation site

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The City of London has unveiled a haul of Roman relics found at an excavation site in Holborn, as the Corporation prepares to start work on a new office block.

The drive for more space in the Square Mile was temporarily halted by its history this week, following the finding of a trove of Roman burial items.

Items including a first-of-its-kind solid oak funerary bed, lamps engraved with warriors, and personal jewellery, as well as a haul of medieval wooden finds too.

The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) and the Corporation released images this week, of the items found during an excavation of the Holborn Viaduct.

The excavation was taking place in preparation for a new office development, with an array of finds dating back to AD 43-410.

Reconstruction of Roman London by Peter Froste with the location of the site circled ╕MOLA

MOLA revealed the items discovered at the site, which included an “incredibly rare” Roman funerary bed, which is the first complete one they’ve ever found in Britain. This is made from oak, with “carved feet, and joints fixed with small wooden pegs”.

While it “was taken apart before being placed within the grave” it was likely used to carry someone to burial.

It said the site in Holborn was used as a cemetery during the period, and alongside skeletal remains, other personal objects were found.

The Holborn Viaduct, which feeds into the Thames, was constructed between 1863-9.

Items discovered included a glass vial and high-status jewellery with jet and amber beads, a decorated lamp, which has an image of a defeated gladiator.

Roman lamp, glass vial and beads from a cremation burial (MOLA)

The museum said the items, found near the banks of the river fleet, were preserved in mud, including medieval wooden walls.

Heather Knight, Project Officer at MOLA explains:“We know the Romans buried their dead alongside roads, outside of urban centres. So, it was no great surprise to discover burials at this site, which during the Roman period would have been located 170m west of the city walls and next to the major Roman road of Watling Street.

“However, the levels of preservation we’ve encountered – and particularly uncovering such a vast array of wooden finds – has really blown us away.”

Decorated Roman lamp from a cremation ╕MOLA

Chairman of the City of London Corporation planning and transport committee, Shravan Joshi, thanked “everyone involved with the Holborn Viaduct excavation, for their careful and dedicated work uncovering these breathtaking artefacts. I look forward to the day these will be on display for the public to enjoy.”

“The Square Mile has a uniquely diverse setting, with areas of great historical importance and beautiful heritage assets, alongside impressive skyscrapers, new hospitality venues, as well as residential homes across several estates. We will continue to enhance this offering and deliver a visitor destination for everyone to enjoy.”

The archeological finds are being analysed and will eventually likely be put on display by the Corporation.

The analysis will give more insight into the people who lived and died at the site, and what Roman London was like.

The site is being excavated as part of the regeneration of the area, including new headquarters for law firm Hogan Lovells, that will sit at the intersection of Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon Street.

It is understood some of the items found will be displayed at the new tower.

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