I’m floored!

Archaeologists are used to pondering what lies beneath their feet. Sometimes its bones, sometimes its gold, a lot of the time its just mud, but occasionally its the very same thing you’re standing on right now. No, not chewing gum, we’re talking about floors; the solid, carpeted things that keep us all from sinking down into the ten meters of ancient rubbish dumps that London is built on. Back in the Roman period, they had more than a couple of ways of making one.

Way back before Christmas a much speculated-upon group of timbers, that had been visible in section for weeks, were finally reached, and resolved themselves to be a massive planked floor.

Timber plank floor (c) MOLA 2012

Timber plank floor (c) MOLA 2012

The 5 meter by 2 meter construction was considered to be fairly substantial, and as more demolition debris was removed to the east of the floor, we realised that it continued further, eventually doubling in size to 4 meters wide.

The fully exposed plank floor (c) MOLA 2012

The fully exposed plank floor (c) MOLA 2012

The floor was constructed of a number of joists running across the room east-west, onto which large planks were laid, making up the floor surface.

Close-up of the planks (c) MOLA 2012

Close-up of the planks (c) MOLA 2012

Due to the wet conditions and the weight of the soil above them, the timber planks have deformed and sunk down in between the joists.

Roman floor planks bowed over a joist (c) MOLA 2012

Other floors on site are made of a variety of materials. This recent external surface, for example, is made of fragments of broken pottery.

Pottery surface (c) MOLA 2013

Pottery surface (c) MOLA 2013

In the same area another surface contained pottery fragments, but rather than being a surface in themselves they were used as hardcore for a compacted gravel yard surface.

Gravel and pottery yard surface (c) 2013

Gravel and pottery yard surface (c) 2013

We even have a few fancy floors. Hard rock fans will remember that back in November we found and documented the removal of a tesselated floor, and since then we have even found a few small fragments of monochrome mosaic.

The rest of this mosaic floor is obscured by modern concrete (c) MOLA 2012

The rest of this mosaic floor is obscured by modern concrete (c) MOLA 2012

Floors are especially useful for us on this site, as they can be the only evidence that buildings once stood here. When buildings are demolished, walls and baseplates are often removed, but floors are not always. There were no other structural remains associated with our tesselated floor, for example. Additionally, scientific analysis of clay and earth floors and yard surfaces can provide invaluable data about local environment and the use of different areas.

So let this serve as a reminder that you could be standing on something very interesting, although perhaps only in 2,000 years time.

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3 thoughts on “I’m floored!

  1. Hi Kathleen, the floor was made of oak. That was the predominant type of wood used on site for construction, although we have found some rarer willow and beech in some of the buildings.

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