Archaeologists in London have excavated a Roman sarcophagus from a building site in the centre of the city.

The sarcophagus is made of stone but it was probably plundered in the 18th century, as its lid was open and it had been filled with soil. It was discovered several feet underground and it is roughly 1,600 years old. Experts believe it contained the remains of a noble, although they have not been able to identify the body yet.

Yesterday archaeologists lifted the lid which had been slid half open and found soil and bones within. However, it is full of debris, so they do not know exactly what else lies inside the coffin.

According to Gillian King, senior planner for archaeology at Southwark Council, experts hope to find minor items that the looters wouldn’t be interested in but could provide valuable information to archaeologists. She added that the sarcophagus was built into the walls of a mausoleum, and therefore the individual buried within was probably a member of nobility. The remains of a baby dating from the same period were found next to the coffin, so perhaps the mother was buried inside. Also, a bracelet was found near the coffin.

The item was found on Swan Street and Harper Road in Southwark, near Borough Market last month, and yesterday it was taken to the Museum of London’s archive for analysis, where experts will test the bones and soil inside and try to provide a precise dating.