A Curious Invitation present London Month of the Dead
waterloo teeth
Burial Rites in Roman Londinium with Jane Sidell

Sunday 16th October 2022 at 3:30 pm

Londinium was the capital of Roman Britain and a major commercial centre for much of the Roman rule from Julius Caesar’s landing in 49 BC until their departure in the fifth century AD. The invaders brought with them many of their customs, including those for burial. Wealthy Roman citizens would commission elaborate tombs, the middle classes would join “burial clubs” while the bodies of the poor were dumped unceremoniously in open pits.

Burials were not permitted within city walls and cemeteries are generally found along the main roads leading away from cities. Around London the graveyards demonstrate a variety of burial rites, ranging from conventional inhumation through to cremation and bustum (where the body was cremated over a burial pit), with many types of grave goods found with the burials: both objects and food offerings. Evidence for coffins has been found and, very occasionally, stone sarcophagi. Archaeologists have found signs of greater complexity than simple roadside cemeteries, suggesting more focused areas for the dead in the Southwark area, which, whilst part of Londinium, did not have encircling walls.

In this talk, Jane Siddel will look at how archaeological evidence is beginning to paint a strong picture of how the Roman dead were treated and revered.

Tickets £12 including a 20% donation toward a host of restoration projects at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Jane Siddell
Jane Sidell has been working as an archaeologist in London for more than 25 years, and has an abiding passion for telling stories about London’s past residents. She is currently Inspector of Ancient Monuments for London, employed by Historic England, following a decade at the Museum of London. She has been involved in cemetery excavation and conservation for some time, knowing that such sites are where the best information on our ancestors comes from, both the skeletal remains, but also design and layout of cemeteries, and how they have been used. She was lucky enough to work on the Spitalfields site, including the famous ‘Roman Princess’.

Image credit - a grave showing a skeleton during excavation, before its removal. Photograph, 19--.Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Kensal Green Cemetery