- A man taking a lockdown walk on his father’s farm stumbled across a rare Roman mosaic.
- The 828 square foot mosaic artwork depicts scenes from Homer’s ‘The Iliad,’ the ancient Greek epic poem.
- Researchers said that the mosaic likely belonged to a wealthy Roman between the 3rd and 4th century AD.
A Roman villa complex containing a rare mosaic depicting scenes from Homer’s Iliad has been unearthed in a farmer’s field in England.
The 828 square foot mosaic, discovered in the county of Rutland, is the first of its kind to be found in Britain.
The remarkable discovery was made by Jim Irvine, 42, when he found pottery shards on his father’s farm while taking a stroll during the UK’s first lockdown in 2020.
“I noticed these bits of pottery, oyster shells, and what I now know to be orange Roman roof tiles,” Irvine told the i newspaper.
“I knew that they had no business being there, so when I got home, I had a look at the field on Google Earth and noticed a crop mark we’d never noticed before.”
After becoming interested in what lay beneath the field, Irvine bought a spade and began digging. He came across the red hat of King Priam, a character from Homer’s 2,800-year-old epic poem about the Trojan War, depicted in the mosaic.
“Because of the crop mark, I knew there would be something to find. I never expected in a million years to come across a mosaic, especially one as special as this,” Irvine told the i.
After discovering the mosaic, Irvine alerted local authorities.
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester excavated the site with heritage watchdog Historic England and Rutland county council.
Researchers at the University of Leicester found that the mosaic was part of an elaborate villa complex, which held several other buildings.
The team said a wealthy Roman with a knowledge of classic literature probably lived in the villa between the 3rd and 4th century AD.
The artwork forms the floor of what appears to be a large dining or entertaining area, researchers said and depicted scenes of the story of the Greek hero Achilles.
They added that while mosaics were commonly featured in buildings across the Roman Empire, the Rutland mosaic is unique in that it features Achilles and his battle with Hector in the Trojan War.
“This is certainly the most exciting Roman mosaic discovery in the UK in the last century,” John Thomas, deputy director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services and project manager on the excavations, said.
“It gives us fresh perspectives on the attitudes of people at the time, their links to classical literature, and it also tells us an enormous amount about the individual who commissioned this piece.”
“This is someone with a knowledge of the classics, who had the money to commission a piece of such detail, and it’s the very first depiction of these stories that we’ve ever found in Britain.”
The site has been officially protected as a scheduled monument by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), and further excavations are planned for 2022.
Richard Clark, County Archaeologist for Leicestershire and Rutland, said, “This has been the most extraordinary of discoveries, and for that, full tribute must be paid to Jim and his family for their prompt and responsible actions.”