An Archaeological Mystery

25 Jul

A six month excavation in the heart of London has revealed thousands of artifacts illuminating the city’s Roman past-including an extremely interesting sheet of decorated leather as yet unidentified.


Working ahead of construction on the Bloomberg site, home to London’s Temple of Mithras( MOLA) Museum of London Archaeologists have recovered around l0,000 objects spanning the whole period of Roman occupation in Britain, from AD 40 to the early 5th century.

Archaeologists discovered the 1.2m long leather panel beneath a pile of amphora shards, buried in a pit dug beneath the floor of a building thought to be from the 2nd century.

Its stitched decorations show a warrior-possibly a gladiator or a heroic figure- with a mythical half- horse half- fish  creature called a hippocampus on either side, and palmettes at each end. We are very excited about this object as it seems to be completely unique in the Roman Empire, ‘ MOLA Roman finds specialist Michael Marshall said. ‘ As it is unparalleled, we are not quite sure what the panel is from. There have been a few guesses such as wall hangings, window surrounds, one suggestion was even part of a vehicle like a litter or chariot. Conservation is being carried out at present  and it wont be until afterwards when the leather object can be handled and the different layers disassembled that archaeologists will be able to tell how it was constructed,and what it was attached to.

The panel survived because of the site’s location along the  Walbrook  river, where  waterlogged conditions have created a perfect environment for the preservation of organic materials such as wood and leather, MOLA discovered the timber building platforms, fences, and drains, as well as over 100 fragments of writing tablets, some of which still show traces of lettering, and hundreds of well preserved shoes.

Amber gladiator amulet. from the Walbrook Area

This Amber Gladiator Amulet was also found in the Walbrook area. It was thought to have magical powers. The Roman author Pliny describes how amber amulets could protect children from illness and the symbolism of the gladiator may also be protective.

Image  Amber amulet MOLA.

Roman Writing tablets London Excavation

More than 100 fragments of wooden tablet have been preserved. This tablet is a letter to a friend.These wooden tablets were used for everyday correspondence and even shopping lists or party invitations.

Image. Roman wooden tablet MOLA


Image leather shoe MOLA

Many Roman well preserved leather shoes such as these were found.

Original source Museum of London Archaeology.


Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Archaeology


10 responses to “An Archaeological Mystery

  1. dianabuja

    July 25, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Very interesting! Hopefully, there will be more follow-up from the dig-folk.


    • ritaroberts

      July 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Hi Diana, I’m sure there will be much more to hear from the London Excavation. Thanks for your comment.


  2. Mark Hubbs

    July 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks Rita. You always share very interesting information. With 2,000+ years of ground disturbance in London, it is amazing that anything from the Roman era could survive, much less what they have found recently.


    • ritaroberts

      July 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Hi Mark, yes its truly amazing that so much has survived. Thanks for reading.


  3. René Nieuwenhuizen

    July 25, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Love the Amber amulet…it’s beautiful.


    • ritaroberts

      July 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      I agree its a beautiful Roman item. Would love it myself.


  4. nutsfortreasure

    July 25, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    OH now I want that Amber piece special powers or not. I love how the light is caught.

    We do love treasure hunting someday I would love to be apart of a real dig on an ancient land.

    Love digging up the PAST

    Hope you are well.



    • ritaroberts

      July 26, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Hi Eunice. Thanks for nice comments. If there is any excavations being carried out near you. They are always looking for volunteers. That’s the way I began and then I was hooked. I think you would enjoy it,


      • nutsfortreasure

        July 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm

        I know they have them for children now and again I must GOOGLE and see 🙂


  5. ritaroberts

    September 20, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Hello, Thank you Blue Eagle for visiting my blog.
    If you notice the post was from an Archaeology Magazine which I stated so its an already published article.



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