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.
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.
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.