Don’t be hippo critical

A large number of our finds from site are shiny pretty objects, but not all. For this post we thought we would focus on something a little more organic.

In the last area excavated we managed to reach the lower levels of alluvial water-lain materials, the wetland that would have covered the area before the Romans period.

This soil is generally very sterile (lacking in finds) however we did find one amazing thing… a hippocampus!

Hippocampus (c) MOLA 2014


These fish like creatures lived in the many rivers that wound their way around London in the prehistoric period. Essentially a large sea horse, they could live in either salt or fresh water. Our hippocampus was found in the wet clay at the base of one of the prehistoric Walbrook  channels, and so would have lived in fresh water.

These animals were worshiped in Phonecian, Greek, Roman and Pictish cultures. If you remember our large leather object that depicted two hippocampi…

Leather object (c) MOLA 2014

Unfortunately this popularity resulted in their demise as they were hunted for trophies and good luck charms. They are believed to have become extinct at some point in the 5th century, although they still appear on Medieval heraldry.

Hippocampi are uncommon in Britain, and unheard of in London, so we have another first on the site. The conditions have to be waterlogged with the right soil to preserve the fragile bones in the tail.

This skeleton is currently with our archaeozoologist who will closely study the bones for signs of disease and to see if we can tell its age.


2 thoughts on “Don’t be hippo critical

  1. Pingback: You thought it was a real horse… but it was just a phony | Walbrook Discovery Programme

  2. Pingback: Current Archaeology – Archaeological April Fools

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