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Ancient Roman building discovered in Bankside

Archaeologists working on a building site in Bankside have discovered an entire Roman building buried deep underground.

The four-room building, fully uncovered as part of construction works for a new mixed-use block on the Southwark Street site, is thought to date from AD72, about 25 years after the Romans founded the city of Londinium. where the City of London is now.

The building, which may contain a courtyard, was surrounded by formal gardens. Staff from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have found large amounts of painted plaster, some of which has intricate paintings of flowers. Archaeologists have also found mosaic and terrazzo-style floors.

Archaeologists working on the site

The find, which began last month and is ongoing, has also turned up coins, jewellery, oyster shells, pottery, copper bowls and a gaming counter – which appears to have been lost when it fell in the gap between the floor and the wall, museum staff said.

Staff are not certain what the building was, but think it could have been some kind of hotel for upper-class Romans. A phallic-shaped pendant found at the site could also suggest that high-ranking members of the Roman military were staying there, as this symbol is often associated with the army.

It could also have been a private home of a wealthy person or family. The building, which stood for about 150 years, could also have had several uses over its lifespan. The northern part of the building was first uncovered in the 1980s.

Archaeologists working on the site

MOLA senior project manager Derek Seeley said: “The quality of materials found at this site suggests that this building was occupied by only high-ranking members of society. It is rare that we are able to investigate such a large area in central London. It provides a fascinating window into the living conditions and lifestyle of elites residing in Roman Britain.”

Archaeologists working on the site

The objects discovered will be cleaned and taken to the MOLA archive. Some are likely to be put on display in public museums in future.

The find was made as part of the preparation work for a new residential, office and retail building on the site, which is currently empty. Planning permission was given in 2020 and building work is set to finish in 2024.


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