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Death in Roman Britain

Stone coffin

Length: 1.520 m

P&EE 1853.6-20.1

Stone Coffin

From: Haydon Square, London
Date: 4th century AD

'Sarcophagus' is the name for a stone coffin. It means 'flesh-eating' in Greek. When this sarcophagus was opened archaeologists discovered a smaller lead coffin inside containing the skeleton of a 12-year-old boy. The skeleton had been covered with lime, which may have been a way of reducing the smell made by decaying flesh.

The front has been carefully carved. Can you see the portrait medallion of the boy? You can't see the back in this picture, but it has been left plain, which probably means that the coffin was made to stand against a wall of a tomb.