Archaeologists from the Museum of London (MOLA) have unearthed the largest Roman mosaic in over 50 years at a site near the Shard skyscraper.
The archaeologists believe that the mosaic would have been part of a dining room floor. The team from MOLA suggest that the dining room would have been part of a large complex, possibly a hotel. The lavish decorations, including the mosaic, indicates that wealthy Roman travellers might have stayed at the building. Its location on the outskirts of Londinium, near the river crossing, would have been ideal for travellers from the South of England.
The panels of the mosaic are decorated with knots, crosses, flowers, and various geometric patterns. Dr David Neale, a leading expert in Roman mosaics, attributes the design to the ‘Acanthus Group’, a prominent group of mosaicists working in London with a distinctive style. The design is very similar to a mosaic in the German city of Trier, which may indicate that the artists undertook jobs across the empire.
Antonietta Lerz, who supervises the site, described the discovery as “once-in-a-lifetime”.
Whilst the mosaic itself dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, there is evidence of another layer beneath, indicating that the room would have been in use for longer. This suggests that the room had been updated over time, perhaps to keep up with trends. The archaeologists plan on lifting the mosaic from the ground for conservation and display, as well as to learn more about the layers beneath.
The discovery of the mosaic is part of the Liberty of Southwark development, which is expected to be completed by 2024, and is part of a larger regenerative scheme in the area. Furthermore, MOLA is using the excavation as part of a programme called ‘Get Into Archaeology’ for Londoners who want to learn more about how archaeologists are investigating the city’s past.