Prior to the construction of the building we see today, Somerset House was the site of a Tudor palace and ornamental garden, which was pre-dated by various churches, chapels and cloisters.
Before that time, this river-side site would have supported primitive timber and mud block buildings, probably since the earliest London settlement.
It is no wonder, then, that the ground beneath and around Somerset House conceals clues of a rich and varied past.
The recent large-scale excavation and restoration of the Courtyard and the South Building uncovered a number of objects of archaeological significance. This stucco mask, possibly of a sea god, dates back to the old Tudor palace built for Edward Seymour in 1547, which was demolished in 1775 to make way for the present building.
The mask was gilded, while the inside of the mouth was painted salmon pink and still holds the remains of an iron ring.