A dig in the heart of London, just yards from the River Thames, has yielded 10,000 finds from across the first 4 centuries of the city’s existence, which experts say “will transform our understanding” of Roman London.
Museum of London archaeologists (MOLA) say the artefacts, which date from the 40s AD to the early 5th century, comprise the largest collection of small finds ever recovered on a single site in London. The 3 acre site on Queen Victoria Street, which is being developed to become media corporation Bloomberg’s European headquarters, contains the bed of the River Walbrook, one of London’s ‘lost’ rivers. The waterlogged river bed provided an anaerobic environment which has perfectly preserved organic materials such as leather and wood.
The vast trove of every day personal items such as clothes, shoes and documents, as well as timber structures such as buildings, fences and yards, is so well preserved that the site has been dubbed the “Pompeii of the North”. Tree ring samples from the preserved timber will help confirm the earliest foundation date for Londinium, currently thought to be 47 AD.
Prize finds include over 100 fragments of Roman writing tablets, some containing names and addresses; and a wooden door, only the second to be found in London. The site also includes a previously unexcavated section of the Temple of Mithras, which was first unearthed in 1954.
Sadie Watson, the site director for MOLA, said: “We have entire streets of Roman London in front of us. This is the site that we have been dreaming of for 20 years. The archaeology on this project so far is probably the most important excavation ever held within London, certainly within Roman London. The depth, the preservation, the extent of the archaeology – the entire Roman period is represented by fantastic buildings as well as artefacts.”
The top 20 finds unearthed so far are pictured below – all image credits are for the Museum of London Archaeology:
Source: Museum of London Archaeology