Removing a Roman Floor

Here we have it, the final part of our hard-rocking, fast-digging look at the steps that go in to excavating a tessellated floor! This week the recording is finished, and its time for removal.

So, the floor is now removed, but what have we learned about it?

Unfortunately, no walls, foundations, postholes or other structural remains were found associated with the floor (aside from a series of stake-holes which pierced the floor, so must have been later). As such it is difficult to reconstruct the building in which it was laid, and we cannot yet say for certain whether this was an internal room or an external courtyard.

The north, south and east edges appear to be original, giving a width of around two meters. The western edge, however, has been cut by the foundation trench of a Victorian building. This means that whilst the floor appears square now, it is uncertain whether it was originally a small room or a long corridor running east-west.

More can be said about the floor itself. In the videos, it looks like a uniform orangey-red surface; this is because most of the tiles are clipped-down red brick. However, a closer look at the cleaned surface reveals a plethora of different fabric types and colours.

The most frequent odd tiles are made from yellow brick.

Yellow and red tesserae (c) MOLA

Others are made of clipped-down tile. These fragments have ridges on the surface, indicating that they were made from the flue tiles of a hypocaust system. These tiles would be built into a wall, and the ridges helped the plaster to adhere.

(c) MOLA 2012

Fragments of hypocaust tile incorporated into a tessellated floor (c) MOLA 2012

Some pieces are even made of broken pottery. The bright red fragment in this picture is terra sigillata (Samian ware):

Roman slipware fragment reused in a tessellated floor (c) MOLA 2012

You will also have noticed from these pictures that the sizes and shapes are quite uneven. Whilst most are roughly square, there are several round pieces:

A circular tessera (c) MOLA 2012

…and some are considerably larger than the others:

Unevenly-sized tesserae along the edge of the floor (c) MOLA 2012

Whether this indicates shoddy building work or ad-hoc repairs is unclear, but whilst this floor would not have been a grand showpiece, it would still have required considerably more expense and labour than the wooden or rammed-earth floors in most domestic buildings.

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2 thoughts on “Removing a Roman Floor

  1. Pingback: I’m floored! | Walbrook Discovery Programme

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