Skull on display in Roman Dead
The medieval ‘historian’, Geoffrey of Monmouth, finished his largely fictional History of the Kings of England around 1136. In it he mentioned Roman beheadings taking place next to London’s Walbrook stream. Did he make this up, like most of the ‘facts’ in his History? Was he inspired by some early discoveries of skulls in the Walbrook? Human skulls have certainly been found in and near this ancient stream for many years and there is much debate about how they got there.
For a full discussion on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of this Roman event, see John Clark’s article in the Spring 2018 issue of Spring 2018 issue of London Archaeologist magazine: ‘The Walbrook Skulls Revisited’.
Over 400 years later, another historian, John Stow, gave a detailed description of Roman burials found at Spitalfields in his 1598 Survey of London. In around 1576, the field was being dug up to collect clay for making bricks. Stow wrote ‘…many earthern pots, called urnae, were found full of ashes, and burnt bones of men, to wit, the Romans that inhabited here; for it was the custom of the Romans to burn their dead, to put their ashes in an urn and bury the same…’