Britain's Oldest Hand-Written Document Found In London

By M@ Last edited 29 months ago
Britain's Oldest Hand-Written Document Found In London

The picture above shows the earliest known reference to London. The wooden tablet dates from AD 65-80, just a few decades after the Roman foundation of the city. It bears the inscription Londinio Mogontio, meaning 'In London, to Mognotius' (a Celtic personal name).

The tablet is among 410 recently discovered at the vast archaeological dig on Queen Victoria Street — the site of a new headquarters for Bloomberg. The Roman tablets once held beeswax, used for day-to-day note taking and administration.

Only 19 such tablets had previously been discovered in London, so this is a rich cache for those studying the period. Archaeologists are describing the finds as 'Britain’s largest, earliest and most significant collection of Roman waxed writing tablets'.

Roman expert Roger Tomlin inspects one of the tablets.

Alongside the Londinio tablet is the oldest handwriting ever discovered in Britain, a financial document from AD 57. The haul also includes reference to the historical figure Julius Classicus, evidence of a quick recovery after the city's destruction by Boudica, and a practice alphabet — as though from a school. The names of around 100 early Londoners are also given.

The site nestles between the buried River Walbrook and the River Thames. This waterlogged location is perfect for preserving wood, which might otherwise have perished with the centuries.

Some of the tablets will join 700 other objects from the dig in a new permanent exhibition, which will open at the site in autumn 2017.

Full details of the finds are published in a new book from MOLA, Roman London’s first voices: writing tablets from the Bloomberg excavations, 2010-14. Images courtesy of MOLA.

Last Updated 01 June 2016