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Roman skulls unearthed deep beneath London

By CNN.com staff
October 2, 2013 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Construction workers digging a tunnel in London have found about 20 Roman-era skulls
  • The workers were digging a tunnel for the Crossrail rail project spanning the city
  • Archaeologists believe the skulls were washed down stream from an old burial ground
  • More than 10,000 archaeological items have been found since the project began in 2009

(CNN) -- Clusters of Roman skulls have been discovered deep below London's Liverpool Street by construction workers digging a new rail route through England's capital.

Tunnelers working on the Crossrail project found about 20 skulls, deep beneath the 16th century Bedlam burial ground in the center of the city, Crossrail said in a statement.

Read more: Rail excavation unearths suspected 'plague pit'

Museum of London Archaeology conservator Luisa Duarte dusts a Roman sculpture of an eagle clutching a serpent, dating from the first or second century. It was dug up at a site in the City of London, the UK capital's financial center, which is known once to have been home to a Roman cemetery. The statue is 26 inches tall and made of limestone. It will be on display at the Museum of London for the next six months. Museum of London Archaeology conservator Luisa Duarte dusts a Roman sculpture of an eagle clutching a serpent, dating from the first or second century. It was dug up at a site in the City of London, the UK capital's financial center, which is known once to have been home to a Roman cemetery. The statue is 26 inches tall and made of limestone. It will be on display at the Museum of London for the next six months.
Pompeii of the north
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The human skulls -- as well as fragments of Roman pottery -- were found in sediment of the historic river channel of the River Walbrook, a tributary of the River Thames, it said.

Roman-era skulls had been found along the path of the River Thames throughout London's history, fueling speculation they were the heads of the victims of rebels fighting under Queen Boudicca against Roman occupation, lead archaeologist Jay Carver said.

Read more: London dig turns up slice of Roman life

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

Crossrail said tunnelers at Liverpool Street also discovered medieval wooden structures, which archaeologists believe may have formed part of the Bedlam cemetery walls.

About 3,000 skeletons previously discovered at the Bedlam burial ground are set to be relocated next year.

The Museum of London Archaeology will analyse the finds, which are the latest in more than 10,000 archaeological items found across 40 project construction sites, Crossrail said.

Read more: Body found under parking lot is King Richard III

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