One of the Best Roman Mosaics Found in the UK will be Reburied

One of the Best Roman Mosaics Found in the UK will be Reburied
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One of the Best Roman Mosaics Found in the UK will be Reburied

It was quickly buried and brought into being a Roman mosaic discovered in a Berkshire area and recognized as one of UK’s most exciting archeological findings.

The mosaic depicting a mythical chariot race for a princess ‘ hand is uncovered in the village of Boxford for 9 days by archeologists and volunteers.

Anthony Beeson, an expert on Roman and Greek architecture and art, said it is one of just three known mosaics of its kind in the world.

Archaeologist Matt Nichol, who worked on the dig, described the mosaic’s imagery and iconography as “second to none”.

The mosaic depicts scenes including Bellerophon, Hercules, and Pegasus

He told the BBC: “It’s been quite overwhelming, not just for me but everyone involved.

“There are a real buzz and excitement on this project, I’ve never seen that before on any project that I’ve worked on.”

When it was first partially uncovered in 2017 it was described as the most exciting mosaic discovery in Britain for the last 50 years.

The project, which had been running since 2011, had previously uncovered the remains of a large Roman villa, a bathhouse, and a farm building.

Featuring the Greek hero Bellerophon riding the winged horse Pegasus, the mosaic, which dates from around AD 380, was uncovered by volunteers and resident historians working with Cotswold Archaeology and the Boxford Heritage Project.

After being fully uncovered it was opened to the public on Saturday but is to now be carefully reburied because of its location on private farming land. 

After being fully uncovered it was opened to the public on Saturday but is to now be carefully reburied because of its location on private farming land

Joy Appleton, from the Boxford History Project, said “It’s absolutely beyond our expectations. We now know it’s a unique mosaic but to find it here in little old Boxford is quite something.”

Ms. Appleton added that the area has “lots of iron age and bronze age stuff around” but no Roman finds until now.

“Now we’ve found them and that’s that link through the history of the village of Boxford. There’s nothing like it at all in Roman Britain.”

Explaining the story depicted in the mosaic, Mr. Beeson told the BBC: “The pavement shows Bellerophon and Pegasus but the main action is the story of Pelops and his race to win the hand of the Princess Hippodamia.

Joy Appleton, from the Boxford History Project, said the area has “lots of iron age and bronze age stuff around” but no Roman finds until now

“The king, Oenomaus, having been told that his future son-in-law would bring about his death, made all contestants race him in a chariot but handicapped them by putting the princess in the vehicle with them.

“The losers were decapitated and their heads displayed.

“Pelops persuaded a former lover Myrtilus and the King’s chariot master to substitute a wax lynch pin and the king was killed when the wheels flew off.

“Pelops thereby won but killed Myrtilus who cursed his lineage and brought about the curse of the Pelops. The king’s funerary games are said to be the origin of the Olympics.”  


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Jessica Saraceni has been a part of Histecho Since 2018, drawn to the site for its quirky character and through Articles about the Mysteries of earth and human behavior. previously, she was an assistant editor and Research fellow at Archaeology magazine, where she gained an appreciation for the field work. A master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental science from the Center for Archaeological Research, the University of Texas at San Antonio. She enjoys all forms of exercise; reading works by her favorite author, Haruki Murakami; and playing with her sons.