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A burial bed resembling flat-pack furniture discovered in London, believed to be for the afterlife.

A burial bed resembling flat-pack furniture discovered in London, believed to be for the afterlife.

A team of archaeologists in London has uncovered a significant finding – a fully intact wooden burial bed – which is believed to be the first of its kind in Britain.

Experts have described the bed discovered at a former Roman cemetery near Holborn viaduct in central London as “unprecedented” due to its exceptional preservation. Along with five oak coffins, the bed was unearthed during the excavation. Prior to this excavation, there had only been three Roman timber coffins discovered in London.

The preserved graves in the waterlogged burial site near the underground river Fleet provide rare wooden remains from the Roman era in Britain (AD43-410).

The casket was crafted using top-notch oak and features intricate feet and joints held together with small wooden pegs. It was taken apart before being placed in the burial site of a man in his late 20s to early 30s.

Archaeologist excavating the funerary bed, in Holborn, London.

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According to Michael Marshall, an expert in artifacts from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola), the objects found at the site have been meticulously dismantled and stored, almost like ready-to-assemble furniture for their future use. However, he noted that there is still much to learn about the burial practices. The excavation at the location is ongoing.

A portion of the website, located outside the boundaries of the ancient Roman city and 6 meters below the current ground level, was unearthed during excavations in the 1990s. According to Marshall, the discovery of the bed was unexpected as it had never been seen before. Although there are records of people being transported on beds during funeral processions, and occasional depictions of them on tombstones, it was previously unknown that people were buried in Roman burial beds in Britain. This is a completely unprecedented finding.

Reconstruction of Roman London by Peter Froste with the location of the site circled.View image in fullscreen

Marshall stated that the bed burial did not contain any additional items, but it is highly likely that it belonged to a person of high status. He described the bed as a finely crafted piece of furniture, displaying skilled joinery rather than being hastily put together. It is considered one of the more luxurious pieces of furniture found in Roman Britain.

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A Roman lamp, glass vial, and beads were also found from a cremation burial.

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Some items belonging to individuals were found in other areas of the cemetery. These items include beads, a glass container with remaining substance, and an adorned lamp believed to be from the first years of Roman rule, between AD43 and 80.

Marshall stated that the decoration of a vanquished gladiator on the object is quite remarkable. This image has been discovered in past funeral settings in London and Colchester. The symbolism of a fallen gladiator is fitting for a funeral as they represent both death and the struggle against it.

“Through analyzing these burials, it is evident that even subtle decisions regarding mourning practices have emerged.”

Source: theguardian.com