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Roman mosaic on show after 1,700 years

A Roman mosaic that laid unknown in a field in a Wiltshire village for almost 1,700 years before its discovery stunned locals 60 years ago, is finally being displayed.

Roman mosaic on show after 1,700 years
The mosaic being installed as the first exhibit in the new Wessex Gallery of Archaeology
at Salisbury Museum [Credit: Western Daily Press]
The Downton Mosaic was uncovered by surprised builders when new houses were built in the village near Salisbury in the early 1950s. The spot where it was found is believed to be part of a fourth century Roman villa and is now where the gardens of the homes in Moot Close are still.

The tiny cubes of stone and pottery formed the floor of the villa, and archaeologists studying the spot ever since have concluded that it was probably only in use for half a century before the decline of the Roman Empire and the ensuing collapse of society in the early fifth century saw the building fall into disuse.

Now the mosaic is being installed as the first exhibit in the new world-class Wessex Gallery of Archaeology at Salisbury Museum, as part of the major upgrade of museums both there and at Devizes that went with the £27million new Stonehenge visitor centre project.

Roman mosaic on show after 1,700 years
Archaeologists concluded that it was probably only in use for half a century before the
decline of the Roman Empire in the early fifth century [Credit: Western Daily Press]
"We believe this section of the mosaic came from the central room of the villa which may have been the dining room," said museum director Adrian Green. "The date of the objects found at the villa suggest it was built in the late third to early fourth century AD and remained in use for about 50 years."

The mosaic is just one of around 2,000 items going on display in the new £2.4 million museum gallery.

"The mosaic is made from tesserae – small cubes of stone and pottery laid closely together to form a pattern – and the central design shows a drinking cup with a pair of handles shaped like dolphins. Considering its age, it's in excellent condition. No other mosaics of this quality have been found in the Salisbury area," he added.

Roman mosaic on show after 1,700 years
The Roman mosaic was uncovered 60 years ago when houses were being 
built near Salisbury [Credit: Western Daily Press]
The new archaeology gallery, which opens later this summer, will house one of England's most extensive collections of Stonehenge and prehistoric artefacts including the recently discovered Amesbury Archer, dubbed the "King of Stonehenge".

"The new gallery will bring the prehistory and history of Stonehenge and Wessex back to life," he said. "We'll have some incredibly rare and exciting artefacts which have never been shown in public, and fascinating displays which will give a wonderful insight into early Britain, from the mathematical genius of the ancient Britons and Beaker people through to the Roman invasion, the Norman Conquest and medieval Salisbury."

The Wessex Gallery will comprise two former galleries at Salisbury Museum, which have been knocked together: the Pitt-Rivers Archeological Collection and the Early Man Gallery, with the project backed by a £1.8 million Heritage Lottery grant.

Author: Tristan Cork | Source: Western Daily Press [April 13, 2014]
TANN

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