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BBC's Francesca Kastelitz visited the lady
"It's hoped her skeleton will help unlock a few roman secrets"
 real 28k

Dr Simon Thurley of the Museum of London
"We know quite a lot more about her now"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 January, 2000, 19:26 GMT
Roman VIP's face reconstructed

A face from the past

The face of a Roman VIP who has been buried since the fourth century has been strikingly recreated by archaeologists.

The clay portrait is based on the skeleton of a young woman discovered last year in a Roman cemetery during the redevelopment of Spitalfields market near the City of London.

Her stone sarcophagus, with a highly-decorative, sealed lead coffin inside, has attracted enormous interest.

The BBC series Meet the Ancestors followed the story of her excavation and commissioned a facial reconstruction from the Unit of Art in Medicine at the University of Manchester.

'Striking looking'

Liz Barham, Museum of London conservator admitted: "It was strange seeing her face for the first time, somehow it made her even more of a person.

The stone sarcophagus is gently unearthed
"I expected her to be striking looking and she is. She has very strong features.

"She was in her early twenties and obviously came from a very wealthy family. She probably died from some sort of infectious disease.

"There were some expensive glass vessels and jet pots and ornaments buried with her. The vessels would probably have contained perfumed oil.

"There was also some silk with gold thread in the coffin and she was lying on bay leaves."

Permanent display

Analysis of the Roman woman's teeth suggests her family came from Spain, southern France or Italy, and that she was not born in Britain.

The former site of London's Spitalfields Market
The sarcophagus, coffin, skeleton and facial portrait are all on permanent display to the public at the Museum of London's Roman gallery.

Liz Barham said: "It has been a wonderful project to be involved in because it seems to have captured the imagination of our visitors and they have been able to share in the excitement of the excavation."

A Meet the Ancestors programme, Princess of the City, will track the reconstruction. It will be broadcast on BBC Two on Thursday, 13 January, at 2000GMT.

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15 Apr 99 |  Sci/Tech
Coffin reveals secrets of a Roman lady

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