Pompeii of the north

9 April 2013

When MOLA archaeologists were appointed to excavate Bloomberg Place, a three acre site in the heart of the Roman City of London and home to the Temple of Mithras, it was clear that the potential for archaeology was immense.

Six months later, the team has excavated seven metres of archaeology, removed 3,500 tonnes of soil and revealed some 10,000 finds covering the entire period of the Roman occupation of Britain, from the 40s AD to the early 5th century.

Roman leather carbatina shoe

Situated on the largest swathe of the lost Walbrook River still remaining in the City, the wet conditions have created perfect conditions for the survival of archaeological material. This includes objects and structures made of wood and leather, which rarely stand the test of time, leading archaeologists to dub it ‘the Pompeii of the north’. The result is an extraordinary glimpse into life in bustling Roman Londinium. Wooden buildings that survive to shoulder height speak of thriving industry, a rare inked writing tablet reveals an affectionate letter and a totally unparalleled and mysterious leather object depicting a gladiator fighting mythical creatures may have once adorned a chariot.

Other highlights include…

• A complete and exceptionally beautiful amber Gladiator amulet
• The largest assemblage of fist and phallus good luck charms from one site
• A previously unexcavated section of the Temple of Mithras
• Rubbish and ritual deposits from the Walbrook river, including Roman coins
• A Roman well into which a pewter hoard, coins and cow skulls were thrown as part of a ritual
• Complex Roman drainage systems used to discharge waste from industrial buildings into the Walbrook River

MOLA’s Sophie Jackson, said: “The site is a wonderful slice through the first four centuries of London’s existence. The waterlogged conditions left by the Walbrook Stream have given us layer upon layer of Roman timber buildings, fences and yards, all beautifully preserved and containing amazing personal items, clothes and even documents – all of which will transform our understanding of the people of Roman London.”

First excavated in 1954 by eminent archaeologist W.F. Grimes, the discovery of the Temple of Mithras was perhaps the most famous excavation of the 20th century, with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to see the work unfold on site. The current excavations started with the careful dismantling of the 1960s reconstruction of the Temple and the current excavation has touched on previously unexcavated remains.

On completion of Bloomberg Place the Temple and finds from the current excavation will become part of a publicly accessible exhibition within Bloomberg’s European headquarters.

For more information about this remarkable site please contact the Communications team.