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Newly discovered Medieval roof finial

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.