Archaeologists discover 2,000 year-old Roman handwritten documents in London

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A 2000 year old Roman handwritten document. Image source: AFP/Getty images
  • Archaeologist in london discovers 2000 year old documents and tablets
  • The oldest handwritten document ever found in Britain is dated  to A.D. 43-53
  • It seems so far 87 have been deciphered out of 400 including the first written reference to the city London dated A.D 65 -80

This year in 2016, Archaeologists based in London on Wednesday, May 1 discovered hundreds of wooden writing from the Roman London. Along with the hundreds of tablets, many documents were also found which included the oldest handwritten document ever found in Britain and was dated to A.D. 43-53. The inception of the document can be dated back to almost 2,000 years old.

This discovery of over 400 tablets and documents was done by the by the Museum of London Archaeology and the tablets were unearthed in London’s financial district during excavation work for a new building.

It seems so far 87 have been deciphered out of 400, including the oldest written document can be dated back to A.D 43-53, the early years of roman rule. Along with these, the first written reference to the city (London), which the Romans called Londinium dated A.D 65-80 was also deciphered.

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“It’s the first generation of Londoners speaking to us,” said Sophie Jackson, an archaeologist working on the site. She also said that the find was “hugely significant.”

Archaeologists say the tablets were preserved by the absence of oxygen in the wet mud of what is now one of London’s many buried rivers. Image source:Mola
Archaeologists say the tablets were preserved by the absence of oxygen in the wet mud of what is now one of London’s many buried rivers. Image source:Mola

The London was found by the Romans after their invasion of Britain in A.D 43 but the rebellion led by the Queen Boudica in A.D 61 destroyed the Roman settlement.

The documents found showed that the city was quickly rebuilt and after few years it became a thriving city of merchants and traders. The records show early references to beer brewing, beer delivery, food delivery, and legal system.

The Guardian reported, there is one reference to a beer brewer, “Tertius the brewer is almost certainly Domitius Tertius Bracearius, who is also known from a writing tablet found at Carlisle — and so by about AD85 had a business stretching the length of the new Roman territory. Only the outer flap of the tablet survives, addressed to him.”

These wooden tablets survived till now because of the wet mud of the walbrook, which was then a river but now a buried stream. Oxygen is main reason for the decay in most cases but the wet mud blocked oxygen from reaching the wood and protected them from decay said Jackon, an archaeologist at the site.

Tablets of Roman era were covered by the beeswax, in which then words could be written with use of stylus. The wax is long gone but the marks left by stylus on the wood are still present.

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Looking at the ancient handwriting was “fun” said Roger Tomlin, who deciphered the inscriptions.

“You’re thinking your way into the hand of someone else who lived 1,900 years ago, and your eyes are setting foot where man has never been before, at least not for a very long time.” said Tomlin.

-prepared by Bhaskar Raghavendran, a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter: bhaskar_ragha

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