Archaeologists Uncover London’s Largest Roman Mosaic in 50 Years

One of London’s newest landmarks, a glass skyscraper known as the Shard, evidently shares space with one the city’s oldest hidden treasures: a nearly preserved 2,000-year-old Roman mosaic that was recently uncovered. Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) made the discovery earlier this month during an excavation of the site in preparation of building work. The team believe the well-preserved mosaic adorned the floors of a Roman dining room.

According to a press release from MOLA, the discovery is the largest Roman mosaic uncovered in London in at least 50 years. It’s a rare find for the city, as mosaics of that scale were uncommon in cramped urban settings.
The original structure containing the mosaic is believed to have been a Roman “mansio,” or an “upmarket ‘motel’ offering accommodation, stabling, and dining facilities,” the archaeologists wrote in a press release. The house’s size and lavish accommodations suggest it catered to “high-ranking officers and their guests.”

The mosaic consists of two panels, with the larger likely dating to the late 2nd or early 3rd century CE. The panel is decorated with “large, colorful flowers surrounded by bands of intertwining strands” and Solomon’s knots, a common motif in ancient Roman mosaics often represented as two looped ovals. The smaller panel also is decorated with knots, as well as “stylized flowers,” the press release said.

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Researchers excitedly noted an “exact parallel” to the design in a mosaic discovered in the German city of Trier, suggesting both were the work of “traveling Roman artisans at work in London.”


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