Just behind the Gherkin skyscraper lies a modern grave, of a Roman girl who was reburied on the site just a decade ago.
The girl’s skeleton was discovered in 1995 when 30 St Mary Axe, better known as the gherkin, was being built. For the next 12 years the body was housed at the Museum of London, after its discovery during the excavation. The skeleton was that of a young person of around 13-17 years of age, probably a young woman, and although some fragments of human skull were found nearby this appeared to be an isolated burial and not part of a cemetery.
The burial would have lain just outside an early boundary ditch marking the edge of the Roman city. The body was supine, with the head to the south and the arms folded across the body (with the right forearm over the left). Pottery found in association with the burial has been dated to AD 350-400.
Following the discovery, it was decided to rebury her on the same location after the Gherkin skyscraper was completed.
While burials in the City of London were famously banned in the 1850s, in 2007 legislation was passed to allow the reuse of burial plots within London, if the previous occupant had been in the site for more than 75 years. As this clearly applied to the Roman girl, while there’s a certain poetic license about reburial, it was quite legal to hold a burial in London at last.
During the reburial, a service was held at St Botolphs Church in Aldgate followed by a procession to the Gherkin where the reinterment took place.
She lies under a simple stone marker, but there’s a more substantial indication of the burial on the low wall that runs around the Gherkin.
Written in both English and Latin, the inscription reads: “To the spirits of the dead the unknown young girl from Roman London lies buried here.”