Archaeology

Remarkable Ancient Finds Continue to be Made at London Construction Sites



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An extraordinary find was made this week by a team of construction workers tunneling on the Crossrail project in London. While working at the Liverpool Street station site, the tunnelers found approximately 20 human skulls which are believed to date back to Roman times.

According to CNN, the ancient skulls were found buried deep beneath a 16th century Bedlam burial ground. Along with this find was also some pieces of Roman pottery.

At this time the skulls have not been forensically dated, however experts suggest the skulls date to 3rd to 4th Centuries AD, reports BBC News. In these eras, Romans tended to bury their citizens as opposed to doing cremation.

The skulls and pottery fragments were deeply embedded in sediment located in the historic river channel of the River Walbrook, one of London's lost rivers that was paved over many centuries ago.  Media reports date the paving to have taken place sometime around the 15th century.

London has a rich history that connects to ancient Rome. It is not completely uncommon for workers and archeologists to make these types of finds, but each one is remarkable and these remnants help researchers piece together important eras of history.

"This is an unexpected and fascinating discovery that reveals another piece in the jigsaw of London’s history. This isn’t the first time that skulls have been found in the bed of the River Walbrook and many early historians suggested these people were killed during the Boudicca rebellion against the Romans," said Jay Carver, lead archaeologist on the project, in a Crossrail statement.

A more recent theory carries a different speculation by today's historians.

"We now think the skulls are possibly from a known Roman burial ground about 50 meters up river from our Liverpool Street station worksite. Their location in the Roman layer indicates they were possibly washed down river during the Roman period," Carver also said in the statement.

The Guardian reported the new train line construction, which runs right under London, is currently the largest archaeology site in the United Kingdom.

Over the course of time, Crossrail archaeologists have made numerous finds while working on London's infrastructure. Other previous noteworthy finds include mammoth bones, 9,000-year-old flint (150 pieces), human remains of a Black Death burial ground, and some ancient gold. Another notable discovery has been wooden wall structures dated back to the medieval period. Experts believe these walls helped form a structure for an ancient burial ground.

Furthermore, approximately 3,000 skeletons will be removed from the Bedlam burial ground during major excavations next year. Archeologists are supervising the project(s), however reaching these deep areas in the trenches requires expert tunnelers to handle the depths involved.

According to Crossrail's statement, over 10,000 archaeology pieces have been found to date. These finds span a timeline of over 55 million years. These discoveries were made at dozens of construction sites.

Archeological experts working on the project plan to examine these recently found human skull remains over the next few months. It is hoped researchers can learn more about the age, sex, diets and lifestyles of past generations who lived in the region during the Roman era.

Experts also say there are likely more remnants of earlier civilizations to be found as the work continues to progress.

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
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  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24351460
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/london/9197314/Londons-lost-rivers-the-hidden-history-of-the-citys-buried-waterways.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.crossrail.co.uk/news/articles/roman-skulls-discovered-at-liverpool-street
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/oct/02/roman-skulls-crossrail-london-boudicca
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.helium.com/items/2430813-700-year-old-skeletons-found-under-london-dig-site-believed-to-be-bubonic-plague-victims