London graves desecrated by Boudicca's army.

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London graves desecrated by Boudicca's army


Boudicca was Queen of the Iceni tribe, who fought against the Romans.

Excavations in the City of London have uncovered possible evidence of the desecration of Roman graves by Boudicca's forces when London was sacked and burned in AD 60/61.

Archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology found a small cremation cemetery from London's earliest years that had been severely disturbed some time before the 70s - the date is given by a coin overlying the site.

Contemporary with the cremation cemetery, the partly-decomposed body of a middle-aged or elderly man had been thrown into an open drainage ditch, with the partly-decayed head of a young woman placed between his legs. The bodies were left uncovered. The man's skeleton was missing its lower legs, while the woman's skull had lost its jawbone.

Although mutilated and other 'strange' burials are not unknown in Roman Britain (BA, March), these remains do seem to represent body-parts that had been roughly removed from their original graves, perhaps quite soon after burial, in an act of deliberate desecration. 'It is hard not to associate this with Boudicca's sack of London, as the dates match,' said project director Chris Moore.

Once London was reoccupied after Boudicca's revolt, the site was rebuilt as two properties - a group of industrial buildings and a large timber-framed shop in the late 1st century, replaced by two high-status masonry town houses from the mid-2nd century. These went out of use in the 3rd century, but survived to provide building stone until the 11th or 12th centuries.

They lay alongside a road which probably ran from the east gate of the city at Aldgate to the forum. In the medieval period, the road was realigned slightly to become modern Fenchurch Street. Throughout the medieval period and later, however, the site remained divided into two properties fronting the street. The new development on the site - an office block - amalgamates the two plots for the first time in 2,000 years.

One of the more interesting finds came from one of the metalworking buildings. A fragment of a late 1st century blue-glass 'circus cup', it was decorated with an image of Pirimus, the metalsmith's favourite charioteer.


britarch.ac.uk