Archaeologists digging near London Bridge found the largest Roman mosaic found in the last 50 years. In the shadow of the Shard skyscraper, archaeologists made what they are calling a “once-in-a-lifetime” find. It dates back to the Roman era, when the city was called Londinium.
The mosaic was used as the floor in a triclinium, which was a place for high-ranking Roman officials to eat and drink luxury foods and drinks while relaxing on expensive furniture, according to a report in The Guardian.
Finding the Roman mosaic in London’s Londinium
In 43 AD, when the Romans came to England, they landed first on the south coast of Kent. From here, they went up the River Thames and built a town and a bridge on the north bank, where the river got narrower.
Today, this is where the well-known London Bridge is. After building a port, a network of paved streets, and beautiful stone buildings with mosaic floors, they called the town Londinium. It would later become the administrative capital of Britannia, the Roman name for Britain.
The site is close to the Shard, which is also called the Shard of Glass. The Shard is a 72-story skyscraper in Southwark, London, that was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. On the north side of the Thames, where Roman London was, it is thought to have been a stop for people going to or from Roman London.
Antonietta Lerz of the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) said that the eight-meter-long (26-foot-long) mosaic was made between the late second and early third centuries AD. All of the flowers and geometric patterns on the London mosaic are still there. They will be taken down later this year so they can be preserved and shown to the public in London in the future.
Roman mosaics: Filling in the Blanks of History
David Neal knows a lot about mosaics from ancient Rome. Archaeology News Network reports that Neal said the design of the larger panel was made by the Acanthus, a group of very skilled mosaicists.
A red tessellated floor has bright flowers surrounded by designs made of twisted ropes. In case you’re not sure, opus tessellatum is the act of covering a surface with a pattern of repeated shapes that fit together without any gaps or overlaps.
The triclinium is thought to have been part of a Roman mansio, and the mosaic was in the middle of a big building with a courtyard in the middle. In the Roman Empire, a mansio, which meant “place to stay,” was an official place to stay on a Roman road. It was run by the central government and used by state officials going to and from Londinium.
A large Roman mosaic was found in London, and near it, a second large Roman building was found with “opulently painted walls, terrazzo and mosaic floors, coins, and jewelry.”
Archaeologists from MOLA found a decorated bronze brooch, a bone hairpin, and a sewing needle, all of which showed that this was the home of a wealthy person or family. Lerz said that all of the things he found belonged to “high-status women” who wore the latest “fashions and hairstyles.”
Putting up the Londinium Colony, fixing it up, and putting people there
Lers went on to say that the mosaic was made in “the heyday of Roman London, when people were living the good life.” The mosaic was made 200 years after the famous uprising of the Iceni tribe, led by Queen Boudicca, which burned Londinium to the ground and killed 30,000 Londoners.
Project Britain says that after the rebellion was put down, Londinium was rebuilt over the next 20 years, and the number of people living there shot up to 60,000.
Londinium was the largest city in the Roman outpost of Britannia for the next 300 years. The main fort was where the Barbican Center is now, and a market and theater are still buried under the Guildhall and Basilica (business center).
But the Romans’ huge defensive wall around the whole city may have been their best architectural work. It was built to protect the wealthy Romans from more attacks by the natives while they ate and drank the spoils of their invasion.