Roman Mosaics Heading to Rowdy London’s Upscale District
LONDON – London’s Southwark district in Roman times was often just a marshland filled with brothels, taverns and low-end gambling houses. But two new mosaics discovered in the district south of the Thames are adding to evidence that it also has a more upmarket side.
David Neal, a British mosaic expert, said: ‘These are exceptional, consisting of dense compositions of lotus flowers and twisted ropes, and are said to have decorated a dining room of a family. second century building.
They “tell a lot about Roman Southwark,” he said. “It’s not a slum.”
Two extremely well-preserved mosaics are the largest mosaics found in London in over 50 years. Archaeologists believe it is located in the part of the building where Roman upper-class visitors drank and enjoyed barbecue after stationing their horses outside.
Archaeologists from London’s Archaeological Museum have discovered mosaics at a site where a new development including offices, apartments, shops and restaurants is planned for one space. most recently used as a parking lot.
Sophie Jackson, the museum’s archeology project supervisor in London, said: “It’s amazing how it’s been there for 1,800 years. “It really is a miracle.”
One of the mosaics was nearly 10 feet long, and Ms. Jackson said such large mosaics were rare in London, or Roman London, where space was at a premium, even then.
Antonietta Lerz, site custodian, calls it a “once-in-a-lifetime” find in London.
Archaeologists say the living room where the mosaics were placed may have been part of a Roman “mansio,” which she defines as an upmarket inn where visitors would stop for the night to eat, drink, socialize with merchants and “show off, feel important,” Ms. Jackson said.
While there is evidence that the Southwark district in Roman times was home to brothels, Ms. Jackson said the area also included a number of large houses, shops and craft workshops.
The county has for centuries had an easygoing spirit, because it lies outside the more uncomfortable confines of the City of London, an area within the city itself that is now the capital’s main business district.
Brothels were a feature of the waterfront in the Middle Ages, and theaters, including William Shakespeare’s Globe, are also popular attractions in the area. More recently, it was the home of a club, in the basement of a fitness center, which is credited with the start British rave scene.
Archaeologists also identified a large building near the mosaics, likely the private residence of wealthy Romans, where they found traces of painted walls, coins, and jewelry. and hairpins decorated with bones.
Mr. Neal, the mosaic expert, said the design of the smaller mosaic was very similar to that found in Trier, Germany, using artisans who probably traveled and worked in both places.
The larger picture is attributed to the Acanthus, a local group of mosaicists. Mr Neal said it had been rebuilt on top of another mosaic after the floor of the building collapsed.
Mr Neal said the second mosaic was a bit contradictory, with a white background dotted with oddly colored tessera.
“They didn’t categorize them properly,” he said.
But he said the plates the archaeologists discovered were extremely well crafted.
“Usually British collages can be a bit rough,” said Mr Neal, “these pieces are brilliantly done.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/world/europe/london-roman-mosaics.html Roman Mosaics Heading to Rowdy London’s Upscale District