Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pompei of the North: 8,000 (and counting) Roman artefacts in London

Six months into the dig of Bloomberg place (yes, the London dwelling to be of our own Mayor Bloomberg perhaps when he leaves office) archaeologists have uncovered the largest site of Roman finds in London to date.

Archaeologists have so far discovered 8,000 objects and expect that to rise to 10,000 by the time the project is finished. These include writing tablets, clothing, jewellery and pottery as well as parts of buildings that will help build a picture of thriving London life from around 40 AD to the fifth century.

Ms Jackson said: “Why the site is so incredibly important is the preservation of archaeological finds which are normally decayed, or lost or destroyed on other sites.” The reason many of the objects are so well preserved is that one of London’s lost rivers, the Walbrook River, ran under the site, with the damp conditions preserving the objects.

Michael Marshall, Roman find specialist at Mola, said the findings would “completely transform” understanding of Roman London. “There are very few civilian sites. This is the largest assemblage discovered in London.”

Over 150 fragments of writing tablets have been discovered in one room - in what was described as similar to finding an abandoned filing cabinet - with information written on or scratched into them about people who lived in London at the time.

Archaeologists expect to double the number of names known in London to over 30, although nothing is certain. Mr Marshall said: “It’s an amazing accident when the text survives.”

Ms Jackson added: ““These are really exciting; there are only 14 references to London in all of Roman literature.”
The objects ended up in the ground generally from two ways, people throwing objects into refuse pits, or throwing them into the river as offerings.

The wetness of the ground proved particularly fortuitous, helping preserve the organic remains, and Mr Marshall called it the “best site in London” for Roman remains.

“No oxygen could get at the organics, so wood, leather, horn, and occasionally textiles survive in these conditions. The rest of the city of London doesn’t get that water logging. It gives us a picture of what it would have been all over the whole city.”

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