This site has produced many never seen before moments for both finds and features. Over the coming weeks there will be a few posts about the stranger structures on site, and we have not worked out what all of them are yet!
First up is what has become known as the ‘Pig Pen’. This is because of two (sorry, very mundane) reasons; firstly an animal pen is currently the most likely explanation for what it is; and secondly there was a skeleton of a very young piglet found nearby.
The structure was uncovered on a bleak mid week afternoon when the site had been relatively dull for a couple of days; that is to say we hadn’t found any of the amazing finds you have become accustomed to reading about on here!
First to be uncovered were the tiles that make the floor surface. About six were uncovered that afternoon and we were all getting a bit excited. What was this floor? Was this a high status room? Where they the tops of hypocaust stacks?
The following morning the rest of the surface was uncovered, and we were surprised that it appeared to be only c.1m wide. We had initially thought it had been truncated (partially removed by later activity) but further excavation revealed this was the full extent. The whole enclosure was pentagonal in shape, the tiles had been cut to fit inside a wattle fence.
The tiles themselves are reused Tegula Mammata. These are so named because of the nipple like protrusions on the surface (*snigger*). These tiles were usually used on walls to create space for air flow or in hypocauts. In this case they were reused as a flat surface.
Small wattle enclosures have been found on other Roman Walbrook, and indeed London, sites and have been interpreted as animal enclosures or pens. There is little evidence for this, but it is the most reasonable explanation. During use the wattle fences would have been significantly taller than the few inches left in the ground today, and so would have been very useful at keeping small animals from running away! When the pen had gone out of use the fences would have been chopped down to make way for new buildings. These fragile wattle structures rarely survive, however, as with all the finds on the site, waterlogged conditions of Walbrook means they are perfectly preserved.
So, we have decided that it is most likely an animal pen, and as mentioned before a small piglet skeleton was found next to the pen. With the tiled floor, an unusual addition to wattle fence enclosures, this makes it quite a fancy pig pen. Perhaps this was the home to the Roman version of Spider Pig?!