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Digging Up History: The Best Archaeological Sites in London

London is awash with history. From the grandeur of the Houses of Parliament and the resplendence of Buckingham Palace, to the impressive Roman amphitheatre and the grand old Globe Theatre, there are centuries of stories here that stretch back over millennia.

It stands to reason then that there are still a number of remarkable archaeological sites that are still being excavated across the city. These sites still hide secrets, relics and treasures from times gone by in the capital, attracting leading archaeologists from across the globe who want to learn more about the people and civilizations that came before.

Many of these historic places are celebrated and acknowledged at the annual Festival of British Archaeology, which takes place every July-August. The festival will be back next summer, but in the meantime, you can visit these amazing sites all around London, each with its own unique stories.

Caesar's Camp - Wimbledon Common

Across the soft grass and tended footpaths of Wimbledon Common, there's a lot of green space to explore and enjoy. For budding archaeologists and history enthusiasts, some of this green space in fact covers the remains of what was an Iron Age hillfort which has since come to be known as Caesar's Camp. Thought to date back as far as 700 BC, this hillfort is surrounded by nearly 300 yards of circled earth - it forms part of several other examples of buildings across the UK that suggested a gradual move towards more militaristic architecture.

It's thought to have been occupied for nearly 800 years, up until around 100 AD with a number of different occupants coming and going, including Roman settlers - evidenced by an urn unearthed at the hillfort, chock full of Roman coins.

Roman Amphitheatre - City of London

Back in 1988, an extraordinary discovery was made. Following excavations to build the foundations of a new Guildhall Art Gallery building, the construction team came across the remains of the east gate of a Roman amphitheatre at the heart of London. While there isn't too much to see today, a superb presentation at the site in the basement of the gallery building gives visitors a full experience of what it would have been like to be one of 7,000 spectators. Those spectators would have witnessed everything from public executions through to gladiatorial bouts on tiered seating, rising up above the stage.

These days, you'll still be able to see segments of the arena walls, as well as the east gate that would have seen spectators make their way to the stands. All of this gives an indication to the influence of Roman architecture on early London, or Londinium as it was known back then.

The London Mithraeum - City of London

Another fine example of the Roman settlement at Londinium, the London Mithraeum is an old Roman temple that was originally discovered in the City of London in 1954 but was relocated before being returned to its original site on Walbrook Street.

Thought to have been built back in the 3rd century AD, this temple was originally dedicated to Mithras, a mysterious and little-known Roman god, before its dedication changed to the god of wine Bacchus. Along with engravings to these two deities, there were also marble statues of other gods, thought to be brought to the temple direct from Italy. A number of other artefacts were discovered around Walbrook across the 20th century, many of which are thought to be from the Mithraeum itself.

Today, you can visit the Mithraeum by heading to media company Bloomberg's European headquarters. The London Mithraeum SPACE here is open for free to the public, with the temple itself constructed in much the same way it was discovered, 67 years before.

Hampstead Heath Barrow - Hampstead Heath

One of the more famous prehistoric sites in London, Hampstead Heath Barrow can be found on Hampstead Heath, as its name suggests. Like the many other barrows found across England and Wales, this barrow was a large mound that would have been built to bury the bodies of important community figures in prehistoric societies.

This particular example is thought to have been constructed in the Bronze Age, though folklore has it that it is actually the grave of the might Boadicea, the iconic warrior princess of the Iceni tribe who fought to hold the Roman conquerors as they invaded Britain. Sadly, this is likely untrue, with archaeologists dating the barrow back as far as 3,000 BC, well before the time of Boadicea - but it's a nice idea either way.

You can explore it today by heading up to the top of a Hampstead Heath meadow, where the barrow sits, crowned by a copse of trees overlooking the parkland.

London's Roman Wall - City of London

Far back in 200 AD, the Roman occupiers of London, or Londinium, chose to build an impressive defensive wall to encircle the port area - an area of significant strategic importance for the Roman Empire. It was built on an even older ditch area and incorporates an older fort, today known as Cripplegate fort.

The wall was expanded on in the following years, but as the Romans began to leave Britain and their empire began to wane, the wall began to deteriorate before being repaired, enhanced and demolished by successive governments.

Despite this, an impressive stretch of the ruins still remains in parts of central London as a reminder of the influence of the Romans on British history. If you want to discover the fortification for yourself, you can follow the London Wall Walk to take in all of the additions, changes and history behind this ancient fortification.

Whether you're a history buff or just like to explore old ruins and remnants of the past, London's streets are fascinating to discover for their centuries of history.

If you're thinking of making the move to London to explore this history for yourself, here at Berkeley Group, we've got a comprehensive catalogue of modern and well-appointed properties across the city. Find our complete collection here.