Lavish Roman mosaic is biggest found in London for 50 years

The largest expanse of Roman mosaic found in London for more than half a century has been unearthed at a site believed to have been a venue for high-ranking officials to lounge in while being served food and drink.

Dating from the late second century to the early third century, the mosaic’s flowers and geometric patterns were a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime find, said Antonietta Lerz, of the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola).

It was discovered about a month ago at a construction site near London Bridge. The mosaic, which is eight metres long, will be lifted later this year for preservation and conservation work, with the eventual hope of it being publicly displayed.

The main mosaic incorporates flowers, geometric patterns and a twisted-rope design.
The main mosaic incorporates flowers, geometric patterns and a twisted-rope design. Photograph: MOLA/Andy Chopping

Its main panel features large, colourful flowers surrounded by bands incorporating a twisted-rope design, set within a red tessellated floor. There are also geometric elements and lotus flowers in the main mosaic and a smaller nearby panel.

David Neal, an expert in Roman mosaic, has attributed the design of the larger panel to a team of mosaicists known as the Acanthus group, who developed a unique style. The smaller panel is a close parallel to one unearthed in Trier, Germany, suggesting that London artisans travelled abroad.

The archaeologists from Mola, who have worked at the site since last June, believe the room housing the mosaic was a triclinium, containing dining couches on which people would recline to eat and drink while admiring the decorative flooring. The walls were also richly decorated.

A smaller panel was found that is similar to a mosaic unearthed in Trier, Germany.
A smaller panel was found that is similar to a mosaic unearthed in Trier, Germany. Photograph: MOLA/Andy Chopping

The triclinium may have been part of a Roman mansio, effectively an upmarket motel offering accommodation, dining and stabling to state officials and couriers travelling to and from Londinium across the river. The footprint of the building is still being uncovered, but it appears to…

Read full story at the guardian.com

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