A 1,700-year-old Roman villa has been discovered under a British farm

A mosaic depicting scenes from Homer The Iliad is one of the largest in the UK discoveries of Roman mosaics in the last century, if not ever, and it has just been declared a protected monument. A Briton, Jim Irvine, was walking around his father’s farm in the summer of 2020 in the county of Rutland in the East Midlands of England with his wife and daughters when he spotted pieces of pottery, shells oysters and other shards. Realizing they were unusual, he researched their exact location on Goggle Earth and saw a clearly defined harvest mark in the field. Irvine’s family had worked on the farm for decades, but they had never noticed this mark.

The dig site that revealed a Roman-era villa on a farm in Britain.

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From there, the story unfolded like a thrilling play. Irvine and his father dug eight feet underground around the mark and earthen some of the rusty mosaic tiles that were hidden. According to a report about the University of Leicester find, they then contacted the archaeological team at Leicestershire County Council, a group that works with local authorities on heritage issues.

The mosaic discovered

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A team from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, which worked in partnership with Historic England, spent more than a year further excavating the site. The team found more of the mosaic, which measures 36 feet by 23 feet. The full image reveals that this is an image of The Iliad of the Greek warrior Achilles fighting with the Trojan prince Hector at the end of the Trojan War.

Representation of craftsmen from Roman times laying mosaics.

The University of Leicester report says the piece was likely part of the floor of a dining room or entertainment area. “Mosaics were used in a variety of private and public buildings throughout the Roman Empire, and often featured famous figures from history and mythology,” the report states. “However, the Rutland mosaic is unique in the UK in that it depicts Achilles and his battle with Hector at the end of the Trojan War, and is one of the few examples from all of Europe. ”

Archaeologists have speculated that the damage to the mosaic indicates that the site was later reallocated. They believe the artwork was in a room that was part of a large villa complex between the 3rd and 4th century AD where a wealthy Roman lived. The team also found human remains around the rubble that hid the mosaic, but assume they were buried when the villa had already been abandoned.

Irvine was discovered over a year ago but, based on advice from Historic England, it has only been protected as a listed monument by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport until the end of November. Historic England plans to excavate the site further next year, but history buffs can get their fix of the fascinating find in the meantime in the BBC Two series Digging for Britain in early 2022. “A walk in the fields with the family turned into an incredible discovery,” Irvine said in the University of Leicester report. He went on a few sentences later to say, “The past year has been a total pleasure to have been involved with and working with the archaeologists and students at the site, and I can only imagine what will be uncovered next. !”

David C. Barham