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Archaeologists in London Uncovered an Enormous Ancient Roman Mosaic

Photo Credit: James Manning / PA Images / Getty Images
Photo Credit: James Manning / PA Images / Getty Images

Archaeologists with the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have uncovered a nearly 2,000-year-old ancient Roman mosaic near the Shard. It’s the largest to be discovered in the UK capital in nearly 50 years.

Southwark excavation site with The Shard in the distance
Photo Credit: James Manning / PA Images / Getty Images

The mosaic dates back to “the heyday of Roman London,” and was uncovered earlier this year during an excavation in London’s Southwark district. The area is currently being redeveloped as part of the Liberty of Southwark project, which will see the construction of offices, shops, homes and restaurants over what was previously a parking lot.

It is comprised of two panels, the largest of which is eight meters long and dates back to around the late 2nd or early third century AD. Speaking with CNN, Sophie Jackson, MOLA’s director of developer service, said, “To actually have a whole big spread of mosaic like that in a definable room – we think it’s a dining room – is really amazing. And it looks really nice as well, it’s just really pretty, actually.”

Archaeologist kneeling over the ancient Roman mosaic discovered in London
Photo Credit: James Manning / PA Images / Getty Images

According to a press release, the dining room is believed to have been part of a Roman “mansio” – an “upmarket ‘motel’ offering accommodation, stabling, and dining facilities.” Given its size, it was most likely used by “high-ranking officers and their guests,” an assumption supported by other relics discovered at the site, including “lavishly” painted walls, coins, jewelry, terrazzo-style and mosaic floors, and decorated bone hairpins. These were normally possessed by individuals of wealth.

The larger of the two panels is adorned with “large, colorful flowers surrounded by bands of intertwining strands” known as guilloches and a Solomon’s knot. According to experts with MOLA, it was likely the work of the “Acanthus group,” a team of Roman London mosaicists known for their unique style.

The smaller panel features two Solomon knots and “stylized flowers.” It is similar to a mosaic found in Trier, Germany, suggesting there may have been a tradition of “traveling Roman artisans at work in London.”

Archaeologists working at the Southwark excavation site in London
Photo Credit: James Manning / PA Images / Getty Images

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The mosaic will be lifted later this year for preservation work, with plans to eventually put it on public display. The rest of the Roman-era building is still being excavated, with several more rooms and corridors expected to be uncovered in the coming months.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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