A luxurious Roman mosaic found under a farmers field in Rutland has been described as the find of the century, but what does it tell us about the people who made it.
Professor Alice Roberts says she deliberately avoided looking at preview images of the incredible Roman mosaic part of a villa discovered under farmland, so that her first reactions to the camera would genuinely reflect her amazement. The University of Birmingham professor and television presenter filmed the find for the television series Digging for Britain, which will air in January.
It’s difficult to articulate how important and exceptional it is he said. floor has three panels depicting a climactic moment from the Trojan War in which the Greek hero Achilles fights, kills, and then rescues the body of his Trojan opponent Hector. Many of these floors have geometric patterns or represent one god or another, but there is no discussion about it, the story is presented almost like a cartoon,” said Professor Roberts.
We spoke to the leading mosaic expert in the country and he said it was the find of his life. Nothing like it has been found in Britain in 100 years. The complex, which was discovered in 2020, has been worked on by a team from the University of Leicester. And what the mosaic, dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, reveals, may override popular ideas about life under the emperors.
Perhaps surprisingly, the part of the story that John Thomas, deputy director of the Archeology Service at the University of Leicester, first mentions is the end of his working life. At some point, a home was built in one corner, while another section had just been excavated for a fire,” he said. It could have been the locals who moved in, it could have been the family that had him for years.
This expensive and high-status luxury room had been turned into a cooking area.” Thomas believes that fact alone suggests a lot about how dramatically the world had changed in the life of the building and the people who lived in it. For some 350 years, Britain was part of the Roman world, but historians are unclear whether the imperial rule ended quickly and violently or simply declined.
Was he a misty, muddy rock, barely pacified and full of huts on the edge of the known world or a fully paid member of the imperial fan club Dr. Jane Masséglia, a professor of ancient history at the university, says that the mosaic gives us insight into the minds – and the world – of our ancestors. Images of the Trojan War are everywhere in the Roman Empire except Britain, it was thought,” she said.
This reinforced the idea of Britain as a kind of cultural backwater, lacking the sophistication of a proper classical education. But the Rutland mosaic has challenged that.” She describes the commissioning of the piece as a great statement, particularly given the origins of the subject. Two of the scenes have details that do not come from the familiar tale of the Trojan War Homer’s Iliad, but rather a lost version of the Greek playwright Aeschylus.