Scientists have discovered the largest expanse of Roman mosaic discovered in London for 50 years at a site thought to have been a venue for high-ranking authorities to lounge in while being served food and drink.
Antonietta Lerz from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola), said that the mosaic’s flowers and geometric pattern, dating back to the late 2nd century to the early 3rd century, were an astonishing and unique discovery.
The mosaic was found a month ago at a building location next to the London Bridge. It is 8 m long and will be raised later this year for preservation, as scientists are expecting it to be publicly exhibited.
There are big, vivid flowers encircled by bands incorporating a twisted-rope design, set within a red tessellated floor in its main panel. Geometric elements and lotus flowers are also featured in the main mosaic and a smaller nearby panel.
David Neal, Roman mosaic expert, believed the larger panel was designed by a team of mosaicists known as the Acanthus group that developed their own unique style. The smaller panel is identical to one excavated in Trier, Germany, indicating London artisans travelled overseas.
Mola archaeologists, conducting excavations at the location since last June, think that the room containing the mosaic was a triclinium, having dining couches where people would recline to eat and drink while praising the decorative flooring. Furthermore, the walls were also richly decorated.
The triclinium was possibly part of a Roman mansio, effectively an upmarket motel offering accommodation, dining and stabling to state officials and couriers travelling to and from Londinium across the river. The building’s footprint is still being revealed, but it seems to have been a bigger structure surrounding a central courtyard.
Archaeologists also discovered another huge Roman construction at the location, saying that it might have been the private residence of a prosperous individual or family. They also discovered traces of lavishly painted walls, terrazzo and mosaic floors, coins and jewelry.
A decorate bronze brooch, a bone hairpin and a sewing needle were among the items retrieved. Lerz said that “These finds are associated with high-status women who were following the latest fashions and the latest hairstyles.” It was “the heyday of Roman London”, she added. “The buildings on this site were of very high status. The people living here were living the good life.”
The site is being redeveloped as The Liberty of Southwark, a complex of offices, homes and shops that is a joint-venture by U+I and Transport for London (TfL).