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Following on from our June object of the month, more finial goings on at the Museum of London with this recent Medieval discovery:
This rare find has been uncovered from the shores of the Thames by the Museum of London. A clay medieval roof finial was discovered a week ago by a mudlark, who was helping survey the foreshore of the river by the Tower of London, and reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This fascinating object offers a glimpse of what the city could have looked like over 600 years ago. The roof finial is worn and in shape of an animal, dating from the late 12th Century or 13th Century. An object like this would have been used to embellish the ridges of tiled roof buildings in London and other large towns. This particular example was probably made around Woolwich and brought to the city with other pots and roof tiles. Roy Stephenson, Head of Archaeological Collections and Archive, said: "This find is relatively rare in the collections of the Museum of London. It gives a fascinating insight into the lost roofscape of medieval London, which we know relatively little about. Some of the more common place roofs would have been thatched. But here we have evidence of a decorated tiled roof, possibly from a prestigious private building." The finial will now undergo cleaning and research to further the Museum’s knowledge about the way London looked over six centuries ago. Regular updates on the progress of this process will be posted to our blog.
Studies by Museum of London published by the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society and knowledge of our collections highlight that finials such as the one found may have been rare in London, with the majority of such finials found in Britain coming from The Midlands. The finial design follows the anthromorphic (human) and zoomorphic (animal) style from the time of recreating faces of both humans and animals on pottery as can be seen in the collection of jugs and other pottery in our Medieval gallery.
To find out more about Medieval pottery and London-type ware of the time see the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society publication by J.E Pearce, A.G. Vince and M.A. Jenner published in 1985 ISBN 0903290278. To learn more about the Museum's ceramic collection you can visit our dedicated webpages. News of our find has generated interest online as to the nature of the object with some suggesting the finial looks like an elephant and our curatorial team thinking more bird than mammal - possibly an owl? You may think that elephants would not have been an animal Medieval Londoners would be familiar with. However, they were common attractions at the popular Royal Menagerie's as early as those held at The Tower of London during the reign of Henry III. Join the debate on the Museum's twitter page.