In the vibrant heart of London, beneath the imposing Shard, archaeologists have unveiled a captivating glimpse into the city’s ancient past. This extraordinary find, a Roman mosaic dating back to the late second or early third century, stands as a testament to the rich history embedded in the bustling metropolis.
A Rare Discovery
Antonietta Lerz, the Museum of London Archeology (MOLA) site supervisor, couldn’t contain her excitement, describing it as a “once-in-a-lifetime find in London.” The mosaic, discovered during the excavation of the Liberty of Southwark site near the London Bridge, comprises two panels spanning over 26 feet.
The larger panel, a masterpiece by the Acanthus group, showcases lotus flowers, a “Solomon’s knot” pattern, and guilloche intertwining strands. Meanwhile, the smaller panel, with red and black tiles, bears a resemblance to a mosaic found in Trier, Germany, suggesting the influence of London artisans abroad.
These mosaics likely adorned a triclinium, a formal dining room where elite Romans indulged in leisurely activities. The triclinium, possibly part of a larger mansio, unveils insights into the lifestyle of upper-class Romans, complete with couches, conversations, and admiration for exquisite flooring.
The archaeological exploration didn’t stop at the mosaics. Nearby, evidence of a large building emerged, possibly a wealthy Roman’s private residence. The discovery of an intricate bronze brooch, a bone hairpin, and a sewing needle suggests a high-status dwelling, echoing the opulence of Roman London during its peak.
Unveiling Roman Londinium
Roman London, or Londinium, thrived between the first and second centuries, reaching a population of 45,000 to 60,000. With forums, basilicas, bathhouses, and temples, it stood as the largest city in Roman Britannia. The mosaics found near The Shard serve as a captivating link to this bygone era.
Henrietta Nowne, Senior Development Manager at U+I, expressed astonishment at the significance of the find. The commitment to preserving heritage led to consultations with Southwark Council, aiming to display these cultural treasures for generations to come.
Antonietta Lerz and her team envision a long-term display of the mosaics for public enjoyment. As the excavation continues just a three-minute walk from the gleaming Shard, the anticipation builds for a glimpse into the ancient Roman splendor.