The first evidence we have of humans at the site is a small group of flints probably dating back to the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age, 10,000-4,000BC) and later. We also found some pieces of pottery dating to the Middle-Late Iron Age (AD400BC-AD43) below the earliest phase of the Roman road, but we cannot precisely date this.
Figure 1Figure 1 The earliest Roman activity on the site we found was a number of large ditches defining the line of the road, but probably pre-dating the earliest road surface. These ditches were revetted with substantial timber posts and were probably lined with planks, suggesting that they also served as drainage ditches.
We also found a small cremation cemetery including three cremation burials and dumps of pyre debris (several burials were found during excavations in 1872 and 1925 at 112-114 Fenchurch Street, approximately 20m to the north). All three of the cremation burials had been severely disturbed, probably very shortly after the cemetery fell out of use (see Fig.1). It is possible that these had been deliberately damaged. It is tempting to see this action taking place during the revolt of Queen Boadicea (Boudicca) of the Iceni in AD61 in which London was attacked and burnt to the ground, although it is not possible to confirm or deny this.
Figure 2Figure 2 An unusual inhumation burial, found in the base of one of the earliest ditches is probably contemporary with the cremation cemetery. The body, that of a middle aged or elderly man, appears to have been placed in the base of the ditch, following the removal of the lower legs, and the head of a young woman, probably at least partly decomposed, was then placed between the legs. The body was then left to be covered by the gradual silting up of the ditch (see Fig.2). Again it is tempting to see this as a deliberate desecration of the graves of people buried within living memory, possibly during the Boudiccan Revolt, however, similar burials are known in the Roman period, though they are rather unusual.
Figure 3Figure 3 At about the same time as the earliest metalled road surface was laid (this was resurfaced four times during the 1st-3rd centuries), the early ditches were deliberately filled in and the entire area levelled with a large dump of clay and sand. The earliest clay and timber buildings (see Fig.3) were constructed upon this deposit, probably between AD75-100. (see Fig.4).
These relatively short-lived buildings were replaced in the late 1st or early 2nd century by a series of eight small industrial buildings in the east of the site. These appear to have been largely associated with metalworking, both smelting and smithing, although finds of metalworking waste and dumps of unused tesserae (small pieces of stone or tile that made up mosaics or floors) indicate that they were also used for other industrial functions. In the western side of the site the early building was replaced by a larger timber framed building, which appeared to consist of domestic or storage rooms to the rear with a large room fronting onto the road with a line of large amphora set into its floor. This was probably a shop of some kind.
Figure 4Figure 4 In the mid 2nd century two large masonry buildings (Buildings 1 and 2) replaced the industrial buildings and the shop. These have been interpreted as town houses; the associated opus signinum (fine Roman concrete) and tessellated floors suggest that these were for people of high status. In the late 2nd or early 3rd century a third masonry building, a small square structure, was built in the extreme western side of the site. Although the function of this building is presently uncertain, a series of hearths within it suggest it was used for domestic purposes.
The buildings may have fallen out of use by the mid 3rd century, although the masonry walls were not finally completely destroyed until the 11th or 12th century. By this time the course of Fenchurch Street was altered from that of the Roman road to its present line.
During the medieval period the area was used for a variety of domestic and industrial uses. Although modern basements had removed all traces of medieval structures, it is apparent from the distribution of pits and wells on the site that this area was divided into two properties. This was in almost the exact position of the modern buildings and on an only slightly different alignment to the earliest Roman boundary.
In total, 15 Roman buildings and associated open areas, dating from the later 1st century to the late 2nd/early 3rd century, have been identified, as has the course of the Roman road between Aldgate and the Via Decumanus to the east of the Forum.
Work is continuing on the objects found at the site. They will be cleaned, identified, analysed and recorded on a database. Soil samples have been taken and will be analysed shortly. Eventually a comprehensive report will be written on the site. Please see this website for more details.