Hello From Londinium: Oldest Handwritten Documents In British History Discovered


photo Courtesy of npr.org

The discovery, a collection of more than 400 Roman waxed writing tablets, was announced Wednesday by the Museum of London Archaeology. The tablets were unearthed in London’s Financial district By The Guardian  excavation work for a new building.

“The tablets were found under a 1950’s office block in the still smelly, wet mud of the lost river Walbrook, as the site was being cleared for a huge new European headquarters for bloomberg” stated npr.org

The Bloomberg tablets, as the museum is calling them, they dated back to the early as A.D. 43. The tablets have been surviving nearly for more than two millennia because of the wet mud blocked the oxygen from reaching the wood and protected them for a decay, reported the Museum of London Archaeology writes.

“Most of the tablets appear to have been trash brought into use as sort of landfill when Romans were building on top of one-time Walbrook River (now completely underground) stated the guardians.

The wax has lasted long since it’s been lost- but the stylus that was use mark the tablets sometimes cut down into the wood, leaving many marks behind. Think of how a pad of paper can retain the imprint of a message from a page that’s been torn away, stated npr.org.

“As tablets were reused, in some cases several layers of text built up on the tablets making them particularly challenging the decode,” says the museum

Tomlin pored over the tablets to identify and interpret the markings. He’s since deciphered more than 80. Among his record-making finds:

  • The oldest handwritten document ever found in Britain, dated to A.D. 43-53, the earliest years of Roman rule in Britain

  • The earliest date recorded on a handwritten document in Britain — a tablet marked with Jan. 8, 57 (as we’d write it today)

  • The first reference to “London” — or Londinium, as it was then known — as a city name, from A.D. 65-80

  • Tablets that seem to have been used to practice the alphabet and numbers, possibly the first evidence for a school in Roman Britain

“Tertius the brewer is almost certainly Domitius Tertius Bracearius, who is also known from a writing tablet found at Carlisle- and so by about AD 85 had buisness stretching the length of the  new roman territory.Only the outer flap of the tablet survives,” stated The Guardian