Remains of a remarkable Roman villa, containing a rare mosaic have been uncovered in a farmer’s field in Rutland, East Midlands. “The first of its kind in the UK”, the mosaic is said to date back to the late Roman period between the 3rd & 4th Century AD.
The mosaics of Ancient Rome are renowned for featuring famous figures from mythology and were a popular design choice for both public and private building. This mosaic depicts a scene from Homer’s Iliad – the epic duel between Achilles and Hector during the Trojan War. Its discovery makes it the UK’s first known mosaic of the epic Greek poem, with only a few existing examples across Europe.
The initial discovery came during the lockdown in 2020 by Jim Irvine and his father Brian Naylor – the landowner. Jim recalls it as “a ramble through the fields with the family” that “turned into an amazing discovery”.
When “finding some unusual pottery amongst the wheat” Jim carried out a further investigation. He spotted a clear crop mark via satellite imagery – which he regards as “the ‘oh wow’ moment and the beginning of the story”. He contacted the archaeological team at Leicestershire County Council.
The site was then excavated with the help of Historic England in partnership with the University of Leicester Archaeological Services.
Further examinations revealed the villa was once surrounded by other buildings and a possible bathhouse. Archaeologists soon uncovered the remains of the mosaic, measuring 11m (36ft) by almost 7m (22.9ft).
This stunning roman mosaic is believed to have formed the floor of a large dining or entertaining area within the villa. Due to fire damage and breaks in the mosaic, it’s thought that the site was eventually reused and repurposed.
Archaeologists also discovered human remains buried within the rubble covering the mosaic. Though the age of these people is unknown, it’s thought that they were buried when the building was no longer occupied.
It has been determined that the villa was likely to have been owned by a wealthy individual of the late Roman period. John Thomas, of ULAS believes the initial owner was “someone with a knowledge of the classics, who had the money to commission a piece of such detail”.
The Rutland mosaic is deemed as one of the most exciting roman mosaic discoveries in the UK. It provides us with an insight into the life of people from past centuries, with further excavations planned for 2022. Thankfully the site has been backfilled in order to protect it, so it can provide insight for generations to come.
This rare mosaic is a piece of fine detail and elegance, proving once again the timeless charm of mosaic tiles. The discovery of the Rutland villa and mosaic will feature on Digging for Britain airing on BBC Two and iPlayer in early 2022. Be sure to tune in to learn more about this incredible discovery!
Whilst a very intriguing story, it also showcases the toughness of mosaic tiling, weathering the elements for around 1500 years! A versatile design feature, mosaic tiles are a perfect addition to any home, check out our fantastic range of quality tile designs today!