An inhabitant of Roman Londinium some 1,600 years ago, a wealthy Roman woman was laid to rest in a stone sarcophagus in what is now Southwark.
Her rest was not uninterrupted. At some point – reported as during the 16th century – thieves broke into her coffin, allowing earth to pour in. The sarcophagus was then reburied and and lay undisturbed until June, 2017, when it was found at a site on Harper Road by archaeologists exploring the property prior to the construction of a new development.
Subsequent analysis found that almost complete skeleton of a woman as well as some bones belonging to an infant (although it remains unclear if they were buried together). Along with the bones was a tiny fragment of gold – possibly belonging to an earring or necklace – and a small stone intaglio, which would have been set into a ring, and which is carved with a figure of a satyr.
The burial, which took place at the junction of Swan Street and Harper Road, is estimated to have taken place between 86 and 328 AD and the woman was believed to be aged around 30 when she died.
It’s clear from the 2.5 tonne sarcophagus that the woman was of high status – most Londoners of this area were either cremated or buried in wooden coffins. The sarcophagus was only one of three found in London in the past three decades.