Ancient Roman Notepads and IOUs Found In Bloomberg Site, London

Subject: 🏺 History
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1513
Topics: Historiography, Ancient Rome, 🏳️ Government
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Ancient Roman IOUs Found beneath Bloomberg’s New London HQ by Roff Smith is a report on a recent excavation in what was set to be the site for construction of Bloomberg offices that led to the uncovering of the oldest document yet in Roman Britain. Among the documents, the oldest is an IOU dated January 8, 57 A.D., depicting the commercial nature of Britain with the location matching today’s heart of business in London. The site was set for the construction of the new London Headquarters of Bloomberg LP, in the three-acre piece, where the ancient Roman writing tablets were discovered (Smith, 2016). The site along Queen Victoria Street has rapidly grown into the single largest archeological excavation ever, creating a better picture of the setting during the era. The site led to the discovery of an entire Roman street with new discoveries that included personal artifacts, jewelry, leather boots, and personal correspondence among other artifacts. Archeologists completed their work on the site in 2014 with the museum of London publishing Roman London’s First Voices, a monograph entailing the 88 legible artifacts from the site. The analysis also provides a context of the Roman frontline city of Londinium in which the collected artifacts were composed (Smith, 2016). The aim of this analysis is to depict the significance of this discovery as well as its strengths and limitations, for a clearer overall comprehension.

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Applied Collection Method

As elucidated, the archeological finding resulted from construction on the site for Bloomberg LP. The method applied from the findings was excavation, where the artifacts were unearthed through rigorous diggings at the site (Smith, 2016). The archeological exploration on the site halted construction operations, allowing time for extensive research and artifact collection. The collected artifacts were then taken for further study, to decipher their contents, resulting to the following findings.


The total findings resulted in 405 wooden tablets with one of the earliest document being dated January 8, 57 AD. One of the ancient document dates 43 AD, which is considered to be around the time of Roman entry into Britain. Also, another ancient documents contains “the earliest reference to London, 50 years before Tacitus cites the city in his Annals” (Smith, 2016). In another wooden tablets collected, there is evidence of an individual attempting to write numerals and alphabets. Another major finding is a bunch of IOUs, while others are for seeking repayments among traders in London. An example of the unearthed tablet is written “…I ask you by bread and salt that you send as soon as possible the 26 denarii in victoriati and the 10 denarii of Paterio…”, while other reads “freedman of Venustus owes Gratus, a freedman of Spurius, 105 denarii.” (Smith, 2016). A key finding in the archeological excavation is that most of them are covered with beeswax, and the messages are inscribed or engraved upon the wooden tablets using a stylus. 88 of the 405 tablets are legible and have already been deciphered, bringing forth vast information that previously was non-existent in regards to early Roman Britain (Smith, 2016).

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Rogers Tomlin, a classicist at the University of Oxford, was charged with the role of deciphering the tablets, who integrated photography and microscope usage to decipher the information. A major surprise is the survival of the wood through the years, despite the known rare survival in the ground. In this case, Walbrook River, one that had dominated the area, led to the coverage of the tablets with wet mud, which hindered oxygen entry, stopping the decay of the wood (Smith, 2016). This led to the preservation in an excellent condition with legibility proving this phenomenon. The finding is significant, in that, it offers information not previously known, in regards to early London as well as Roman Britain.

Significance of the Discovery

The discovery has a fundamental impact on history, precisely that of the Roman Empire, and their endeavors in London. The information is also critical in understanding the formation of Roman London, and the kind of life led at the time. The information is fundamental in bettering the understanding of the ancient Roman Empire. As elucidated, the findings from the earliest known archaeological evidence dates almost 20 centuries ago on Roman Britain. The information plays a fundamental role in understanding the influence that the Roman Empire had in London, and the people who helped create the new city of London. The information is fundamental as it forms the oldest known archaeological evidence of Roman London, helping prove the existence of the city at the time. The tablets are written in Roman, so it is obvious that the Romans had already entered Britain and they were rebuilding the new city, Roman London. As elucidated, much of the wooden tablets are IOUs as well as documents seeking repayments, which depict Roman London as a business city (Smith, 2016). At this time, the city was a hub for businesses with the Roman Empire, resulting in the growth of a significant city. The discovery has also had immense positive impacts in archeology, creating a better elucidation of the ancient city’s street that is a highly concentrated business area.

The discovery gravely strengthens early Ancient Roman history, precisely in regards to dates of entry into London and the kind of lives led by the people there at the time. The writings are a sort of a link between today’s archeologists and people to the first Roman Britons on their arrival into London. The information helps answer many existent mysteries or existent doubts in regards to the arrival of Romans in London, which is clearly elucidated by this discovery. With this discovery, archeologists and historians can join the dots in the previously unanswered questions, creating a better picture of The Roman Empire, their entry, and activities in London as well as information on the first Roman Britons.

Strengths and Limitations

The archeological excavation presented archeologists and historians with 405 wooden tablets that bring forth new and previously unknown information regarding Roman Britain. This makes it a fundamental discovery, and one with a significant impact on not only archaeology but history as a whole. The discovery has also resulted in the unearthing of the oldest archeological evidence of London, which dates 19 centuries ago (Smith, 2016). This makes the discovery a very strong and valuable source of information in regards to early Roman entry of London as well as the start of the growth of the city of London. Being in touch with information relayed almost twenty centuries ago presents an astonishing reality, and the fact that 88 of the total 405 pieces are legible and have been deciphered makes the discovery utterly successful. The excavation led to further discovery of other personal artifacts and documentation, all fundamental in bettering the understanding of ancient Roman Empire as well as the city of London during the Roman entry. This information is critical in history as it presents hard evidence of the Roman entry into London and the commencement of the creation of the magnificent city of London, during the Roman Empire. Through the information garnered from this discovery, researchers, archeologists, and other historians will gravely benefit from a pool of historical information regarding early Roman Settlements in London.

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The major limitations associated with this discovery is the loss of information through wear and tears as only 88 of the total 405 artifacts have been deciphered. This is a major limitation, in that, a lot of viable and credible information has been lost to wear and tear of the wood through the many years. This figure is just about a quarter of the total findings, which gravely limits its significance that would have been rather high were all these artifacts deciphered. Another limitation is the lack of dates in most of the artifacts, limiting the actual dating of the artifacts. With a clearer depiction of dates on the artifacts, archeologists and historians would majorly benefit from the vast information garnered from the archeological excavation. The use of the discovery site for construction also acts as a limitation to the discovery, in that, further researches cannot be conducted on site. Most of the sites of archeological excavations are preserved for further research, which may be garnered by archeologists who aim at furthering the initial findings. Were the site of the 405 Ancient Roman tablets preserved, it would present further research information through furthered research.


As a summative, it is evident that despite the existent limitations of the findings from the archaeological excavations on the Bloomberg site, the findings present vast information for archeologists, historians, and researchers, in regards to the ancient Roman Empire as well as the commencement of growth of London after roman entry. As elucidated, this information is crucial in furthering research on this issue, presenting the oldest archeological evidence of Roman Britain. Through this information garnered from this report, history has evidence of occurrences at the time, making it a fundamental discovery.

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  1. Smith, R. (2016). Ancient Roman IOUs found beneath Bloomberg’s new London HQ. National Geographic.
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