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London's largest Roman mosaic in 50 years discovered by archaeologists

Experts believe it once decorated the floor of a Roman dining room.

largest area of roman mosaic found in london for over 50 years uncovered near the shard
MOLA/Andy Chopping

Archaeologists have uncovered the largest area of Roman mosaic found in London for 50 years, describing it as a 'once-in-a-lifetime' find.

Discovered just moments from the Shard in Southwark, experts from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) believe it once decorated the dining room floor of a Roman 'mansio' – an upmarket motel offering accommodation and dining facilities for high-ranking officials.

The well-preserved mosaic was unearthed at a construction site, and includes two decorated panels made up of small, coloured tiles set within a red tessellated floor. We're big fans of tiled flooring, but this design, thought to be almost 2,000 years old, is like a work of art.

The largest panel features large colourful flowers surrounded by bands of intertwining strands, while the smaller panel has a simpler design with two Solomon's knots, flowers, and striking geometric motifs in red, white and black. It's also thought the space would have contained dining couches and bright walls, after fragments of colourful plaster were found on site.

Dating from the late second century to the early third century, archaeologists explain that it was ideally located on the outskirts of Roman Londinium, an area centred on the north bank of the Thames. As pretty as it is kept in its original spot, the mosaic will be lifted later this year for preservation and conservation work, with the hope of it being publicly displayed.

MOLA/Andy Chopping

'This is a once-in-a-lifetime find in London,' explains Antonietta Lerz, MOLA Site Supervisor. 'It has been a privilege to work on such a large site where the Roman archaeology is largely undisturbed by later activity. When the first flashes of colour started to emerge through the soil everyone on site was very excited.'

MOLA/Andy Chopping

Elsewhere, archaeologists also identified another large Roman building neighbouring the mansio find. Likely to have been the private residence of a wealthy individual or family, traces include lavishly painted walls, mosaic floors, coins, jewellery and decorated bone hairpins.

MOLA/Andy Chopping

Puja Jain, Senior Property Developer at Transport For London, adds: 'This is a very exciting finding that illustrates the rich and complex history of this site and London as a whole. This valuable work to discover and preserve London's history is a key part of our long-term development process, which has already given a number of people the chance to learn more about archaeology.

'On dozens of sites across London, we are working with world-leading professionals to preserve the heritage of London whilst bringing forward the homes and jobs that London needs to continue to thrive into the future.'

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