Archeology Breakthrough: “Superb Roman Mosaic Find Leaves Alice Roberts ‘Emotional’ | Sciences | News

Professor Roberts, a leading anthropologist, author and broadcaster, arrived at a site in Rutland for the filming of Digging for Britain Series 9, to help unearth the rare mosaic found in the remains of ‘a Roman villa located under a farmer’s field. It is the only British find of its kind, displaying scenes from Homer’s Iliad, and is one of the few in all of Europe, measuring 11 meters by almost seven meters and representing part of the story of the Greek hero Achilles.

Professor Roberts arrived a year after the mosaic was discovered, but was fortunate enough to be right at the heart of the action during its excavation.

She told “I arrived on the ground in Rutland in September as they were about to start harvesting the wheat and then open the trenches on the part of the mosaic that had been covered with a layer of sand, a membrane, then the earth and a crop of wheat planted on it.

“When I got there the combine had broken down and I thought to myself that I won’t be able to see this mosaic anytime soon.

“But the next day they fixed it, and it was busy harvesting all the wheat and they were able to bring in some power shovels to start opening the trenches.

“Then you bring the earth down to a certain level, then you go to hand digging, then you remove the membrane and brush the sand so that last year’s mosaic is revealed.

“When they dug out the whole mosaic floor, I was able to get involved as well, which was a privilege and it was really exciting.

“I knew it was large, important and well preserved, but speaking to someone who had studied just about all mosaics in Britain he said it was about the Roman mosaic find largest in 100 years. “

It was just one of a host of other astonishing discoveries made across Britain that Professor Roberts had the chance to investigate as part of his new series, with the first episode airing on January 4 on BBC Two.

But when asked what was her favorite find from the show, she replied, “The Roman villa is definitely up there, it was absolutely beautiful.

“I found it touching to be there when this was discovered and to be part of the team that is doing it as well.”

The mosaic was first discovered by Jim Irvine, the son of the landowner, who almost accidentally stumbled upon the elaborate villa complex.

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He said: “A walk in the fields with the family turned into an incredible discovery.

“Finding unusual pottery among the wheat piqued my interest and prompted further investigative work. Later, looking at the satellite imagery, I spotted a very clear cut mark as if someone had drawn on my computer screen with a piece of chalk.

“That was really the ‘oh wow’ moment and the beginning of the story.”

After a first dig, Professor Roberts joined the staff and students of the School of Archeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester for a further examination in September 2021.

David C. Barham