The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has unearthed the oldest tablets written by the Romans in the UK so far, clinching the record for being the oldest handwritten “record” in this country. At the 3-acre site in central London, near the underground Walbrook River (preserved in mud) over 400 tablets have been excavated, dating as far back as 57 AD, near to the very beginning of the Roman’s occupation of Britain in 43AD, when the empire was ruled by Cladius. Each of the wooden tablets would have been coated in blackened beeswax and etched by styluses, the beeswax of course has long since vanished and nearly 2,000 years have taken their toll on how legible the writings are, yet it apppears that many are referring to financial transactions.
One in particular reads:
“In the consulship of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus for the second time and of Lucius Calpurnius Piso, on the 6th day before the Ides of January (8 January AD 57). I, Tibullus the freedman of Venustus, have written and say that I owe Gratus the freedman of Spurius 105 denarii from the price of the merchandise which has been sold and delivered. This money I am due to repay him or the person whom the matter will concern… ”
Another seems to be a tablet displaying the Latin Alphabet, thought to be an aide for schooling of the time perhaps. They are the first ever documents to make reference to London and director of the dig, Sophie Jackson said the findings: “far exceeded all expectations” and will allow archeaologists “to get closer to the first Roman Britons.” The tablets offer a fascinating glimpse into the origins of the city of London, which at the time was a very new place. The finds will go on display next year as the new Bloomberg HQ opens, in The London Mithraeum Exhibition on the site next autumn.
*Tablet referring to London: