The upper Walbrook valley cemetery of Roman London: excavations at Finsbury Circus, City of London, 1987–2007


Chiz Harward, Natasha Powers and Sadie Watson


The unusual quantity of skulls found in the sediments of the Roman Walbrook stream in London has been attributed to a range of causes, from the disposal of massacre victims to the continuity of a largely imagined pre-Roman ‘cult of the head’. Excavations in Finsbury Circus offer a more prosaic explanation. Here, a cemetery occupied marginal land where human remains, particularly skulls, were frequently exposed and washed out, to be transported by floods, migrating Walbrook tributaries and drainage channels. This disturbance would have been plain to see yet formal burials continued to be made, suggesting the watershed area held particular significance for those using the cemetery or that their choice of burial location was restricted.

MOLA Monograph Series 69

MOLA 2015 ISBN 978-1-907586-25-5 Hb 210pp 141 bl/wh and col ills