During the excavation archaeologists discovered a large lump of corroded iron and after painstaking treatment in the Museum’s conservation laboratory, the largest item of Roman armour ever to have been found in London was revealed.
Penetrating deep into the corroded lump, the X-rays revealed several series of long iron plates, joined together by copper-alloy rivets, hinges and ties. There could be no doubt that this was a substantial portion of a Roman plate armour cuirass – probably the breastplate, collar-plate and back-plates on one side with rosette-decorated copper-alloy rivets and carefully shaped hinges.
Cuirasses of this sort were introduced shortly before the invasion of Britain in AD43. Innovative, mass-produced and effective against cuts from British long swords, they marked a major step forward in the evolution of the Roman army.
This particular cuirass may well have been worn by a soldier who fought against Boudica and who was billeted in the camp laid out on the Plantation Place site. The armourer would have been kept busy repairing the armour damaged during the Boudican revolt.
Longer versions of articles by Trevor Brigham and Gill Nason of the Museum of London Archaeology Service first appeared in Archaeology Matters No 12, December 2000 and No 14, May 2001.
For further details, read about the Post-Boudican military encampment in Military Life.