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Rare Roman mausoleum unearthed in Southwark

 (Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA))
(Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA))

The most “intact” Roman mausoleum in Britain has been discovered in south London by archaeologists.

The “completely unique” find was uncovered at a new development site - The Liberty of Southwark - near Borough Market and London Bridge Station.

Archaeological investigations were led by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), on behalf of Landsec and Transport for London (TfL), who own the site, and Southwark Council.

The remains of the mausoleum - a type of monumental tomb - has a mosaic surrounded by a raised platform on which the burials were placed.

The remains also include the walls, interior flooring and the lowest entrance steps, making it the most intact Roman mausoleum ever to be discovered in Britain.

Landsec and TfL are “committed to restoring and retaining the mausoleum” for public display, MOLA said on Monday.

 (MOLA)
(MOLA)

Senior Archaeologist Antonietta 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 mausoleum underwent significant modifications during its lifetime and archaeologists uncovered a second mosaic directly beneath the first, MOLA said.

The two mosaics are similar in design, with a central flower surrounded by a pattern of concentric circles set within a pavement formed of small red tiles.

 (MOLA)
(MOLA)

The mausoleum would have been used by wealthier members of Roman society, it is understood.

It may have been a family tomb or perhaps belonged to a burial club, where members would have paid a monthly fee to be buried inside.

Archaeologists didn’t find any of the coffins or burials that would have originally been inside the mausoleum. However, over 100 coins were discovered, together with some scrap pieces of metal, fragments of pottery and roofing tiles.

The area immediately surrounding the mausoleum contained over 80 Roman burials, which included personal items such as copper bracelets, glass beads, coins, pottery, and even a bone comb.

Further investigation into the date of the mausoleum is being carried out by MOLA specialists.

The site is being redeveloped as The Liberty of Southwark, a complex of offices, homes and shops that is a joint venture by Landsec and TfL.