Medieval ice skates and a 1,800-year-old dog skull: 17 archaeological treasures from the Museum of London

By Ben Miller | 13 September 2016

In 1975, the General Post Office on Newgate Street became one of the largest archaeological sites ever dug in London. Now some of its most prized finds have gone on display


A 1,800-year-old dog skull

A photo of an ancient skull of a dog at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
A photo of an ancient skull of a dog at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
It's uncertain whether this particular dog was a pet or used for hunting. It is known that Roman dogs were often trained to be hunting dogs, which were then exported to the continent from Britain.


A Victorian toothbrush

A photo of a victorian toothbrush at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
Pig bristle was used for cheaper toothbrushes. Badger hair was used for the more expensive ones.


A twisted clay tobacco pipe from the 19th century

A photo of an ancient clay pipe at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
By the 20th century tobacco pipe bowls become extravagantly decorated – this is the only twisted tobacco pipe discovered in London.


An architectural fragment from the 12th century parish church of St Nicholas Shambles

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
Most of the stonework from the medieval church is Reigate stone; upper greensand from east Surrey.


A rare Roman amber die

A photo of an ancient dark red cube at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
The Romans believed amber to be a magical material. Making a die from it makes this object somewhat special. It is worn round the edges and may have acted as an amulet or talisman as much has a functional die - used, perhaps, in gaming and gambling.


A floor tile from St Nicholas

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
‘Westminster’ floor tiles were manufactured in the mid 13th century. They can generally be distinguished from other tiles by their size, generally poor quality and distinctive fabric, such as the clay used in their manufacture.


A 17th century bellarmine beer bottle

A photo of an ancient vessel at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
The inscription around the bottle's belly is in medieval German and loosely translates as "What God desires, I desire too". The inscription isn't perfect and it may have been the case that the potter was illiterate and simply copying shapes (letters).


A ceramic mould for making small 16th century metal tokens

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
Tokens could be made at a time when there was a lack of low denomination in circulation. They could also be used by tradesmen but would rely on the trust of businesses in small neighbourhoods, as they would need to be redeemed.


A Roman spoon

A photo of an ancient long thin spoon at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
This type of spoon, known as a cochlear, was used for a variety of purposes, including the consumption of snails, shellfish, and eggs.


A Roman mortarium

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
Londinium residents would mix and grind herbs and spices in mortaria. Similarly to today's branding, makers would stamp their vessels with their names.


A photo of a young male skeleton uncovered from the cemetery at St Nicholas

A photo of an ancient skeleton at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
This young man suffered from periostitus, a swelling of the connecting tissue surrounding bones. The image shows his burial.


A Roman mortarium made by Sollus

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
SOLLUS produced mortaria in Verulamium (St Albans) from 60-100 AD.


A mortarium made by Cassarius

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
CASSARIUS originally came from Northern Gaul (France). Here, his stamp has a stylised backward ‘S’.


A mortarium created by Albinus

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
ALBINUS is the most common maker's stamp found on mortaria in London. He was active from 60-90 AD.


A medieval ice skate

A photo of an ancient victorian ice skate at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
Bone skates are usually made from the matapodial (metacarpels and metatarsals) bones of large animals - commonly horses and cattle. Hence the bigger bones in the animals' foot.


A ceramic fragment with General Post Office branding from the 19th or 20th century

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
GPO West was the last structure to stand on the site before excavations took place. It was primarily used for the central telegraph, which this vessel mentions.


A Roman chicken pelvis

A photo of an ancient stone at the Museum of London
© Museum of London
It was the Romans who introduced chickens to Britain. They had, however, been introduced to Europe earlier, arriving from the far east in around 3000BC.

  • Delivering the Past is at the Museum of London until January 8 2017.

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Three museums to find the archaeology of London in

Museum of London Docklands
The permanent exhibition, Thames Highway: AD43 - 1600, explores the early ports of London, from the arrival of the Romans in AD43 to the historic ports of Norman and medieval London excavated at Billingsgate and Lower Thames Street.


In spring 2016, the Museum of Croydon looks back at the collection from Grange Wood, as the first recognised council museum for Croydon. On display are a selection of objects from this former museum as well as information as to where its collections are now. Until January 21 2017.

Museum of London

Discover the story of London from the collapse of the Roman city in the 400s to the accession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 in the permanent Medieval London gallery.
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Fascinating stuff! It's so good that objects like these from many centuries back can be seen by us today, and preserved and kept safely.
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