A 2,000-year-old cooking pot filled with cremated human bones has been found by the banks of the Walbrook river in London, in what was known in ancient times as Londinium, a thriving capital of a Roman province nearly two millennia ago. The finding was made near an earlier discovery of dozens of human skulls, adding to the evidence that they are the remnants of a rebellion led by famous Celtic Queen Boudicca, who united a number of British tribes in revolt against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in 60-61 AD.
The cooking pot was unearthed during excavations to create a new 13 mile underground railway line through London, known as the Crossrail Project, which has already yielded thousands of artifacts and human remains, including a 9,000-year-old tool making factory, prehistoric mammoth bones, a Roman road, medieval ice skates, an 800-year-old piece of a ship, and the skeletal remains of plague victims and thousands of people that had been buried in the medieval cemetery of the infamous Bedlam psychiatric hospital.
Workers uncover the skeleton of a Londoner from centuries ago in Bedlam burial ground underneath Liverpool Street. (Crossrail.co.uk photo)The cooking pot packed full of bones was found next to an archaeological site where researchers had previously dug up 40 human skulls and 2 horse skulls (but not the rest of their bodies) that date back to the same time period.
“It had been suggested that the skulls ended up in the river – which vanished into culverts centuries ago – by accident, eroded out of a Roman cemetery and washed downstream until they came to rest at bends in the bank,” The Guardian reports. “The new finds suggest a grimmer explanation.”
Representational image: Pot filled with cremated human bones recently found in another part of England (Hampshire Archaeology)“We now wonder again if the skulls were deliberately placed on the banks. Certainly no river ever carried off the cooking pot with its cremated bones which was unquestionably deliberately placed here,” said Jay Carver, Crossrail’s lead archaeologist. “And the horse skull we found with one of the skulls didn’t come out of some equine graveyard, that was clearly also placed there”.
Previous analysis of the skulls revealed that they bore marks of trauma from blunt force or edged weapons, indicating smashed or slashed faces, fractures of the eye and cheekbones, and blows to the back of the head.
The archaeologists suggest that, taken together, the evidence points to the skulls being the heads of executed criminals and rebels, or Romans slaughtered during Boudicca’s rebellion.
Boudicca, sometimes written Boadicea, was queen of the Iceni tribe, a Celtic clan which united a number of British tribes in revolt against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire, following the pillaging of her lands, enslavement of her people, and rape of her daughters at the hands of the Romans.
- Boudicca, the Celtic Queen that unleashed fury on the Romans – Part 1
- Boudicca, the Celtic Queen that unleashed fury on the Romans – Part 2
Artist’s depiction of Queen Boudicca. Image source.
Historical records suggest that Boudicca succeeded in gathering an army of up to 100,000 warriors. Her first target was Camulodunum (now modern-day Colchester), a town for discharged Roman soldiers and the site of a temple to the former Roman Emperor Claudius. The Iceni and their allies descended upon the town, and razed it to the ground.
Upon hearing the news of the revolt, the Roman Governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus hurried to Londinium, the site of the latest grisly discovery. But the Romans, having concluded that they did not have the numbers to defend the settlement, evacuated and abandoned the town. Boudicca’s warriors burned and destroyed the entire settlement, killing anyone that had not been sensible enough to leave. There were no survivors.
Boudicca’s third and final annihilation was at Verulamium (now known as St Albans), which again was razed to the ground and completely destroyed. By the end of the final attack, an estimated 70,000 – 80,000 had been killed. The crisis caused the Emperor Nero to consider withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain.
Boudicca believed her destruction of three key city’s would free Britain of the Roman’s, but she was sadly mistaken. The Romans regrouped and eventually defeated Boudicca and her army in a final battle in the West Midlands of England. The final result was that the Romans strengthened their military presence in Britain – they were there to stay.
Featured image: Boudicca led her people in a revolt against the Romans in Camulodunum, Londinium, and Verulamium. Image source.
By April Holloway