Preparations for new housing/retail development The Liberty of Southwark, near London Bridge, are certainly revealing some mouth watering discoveries.
In February 2022, the exquisite mosaic floor of a Roman dining room was unearthed — and now, two more mosaics have been discovered nearby — this time thought to belong to a "completely unique" Roman mausoleum.
Working on behalf of Landsec and TfL, The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) team has found portions of wall and flooring that were part of a mausoleum built to bury well-off civilians of Londinium. "It may have been a family tomb or perhaps belonged to a burial club," says MOLA, "where members would have paid a monthly fee to be buried inside."
These two mosaics (one located directly below the other — the result of a Roman refurb) are remarkably preserved. They depict similar 'flower' patterns within concentric circles set within a pavement formed of small red tiles, and it's believed the raised platforms around the mosaics is where burials would have been placed.
No coffins or burials were discovered near the mosaics, but over 100 coins have been found on the site — and nearby, copper bracelets, glass beads, coins, pottery, and a bone comb have been excavated.
"All signs indicate this was a substantial building, perhaps two storeys high, requiring large buttresses in the corners for support," says the MOLA team, which thinks the structure was probably dismantled in medieval times, when recycling building materials was common practice.
Still, says MOLA, this is the most intact Roman mausoleum ever to be discovered in Britain.
Antonietta Lerz, Senior Archaeologist at MOLA described the 2022 discovery as a "once-in-a-lifetime" find — although this find would seem to prove her wrong. This time round, Lerz said: "This relatively small site in Southwark is a microcosm for the changing fortunes of Roman London — from the early phase of the site where London expands and the area has lavishly decorated Roman buildings, all the way through to the later Roman period when the settlement shrinks and it becomes a more quiet space where people remember their dead.
"It provides a fascinating window into the living conditions and lifestyle in this part of the city in the Roman period."
The Liberty of Southwark team says it is committed to restoring and retaining the mausoleum 'for public display and enjoyment' — and has previously said that the other mosaic would also eventually go on display too.
In the meantime, we wait with bated breath to see what else has been waiting so many centuries beneath the Southwark soil, to see the light of day once more.