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Archaeology breakthrough: 'Stunning Roman mosaic find leaves Alice Roberts 'emotional' - WSBuzz.com
Archaeology breakthrough: ‘Stunning Roman mosaic find leaves Alice Roberts ’emotional’

Archaeologists 'stunned' at discovery of Roman settlement

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Prof Roberts, a leading anthropologist, author and broadcaster, arrived at a site in Rutland for the filming of series 9 of Digging for Britain, to take part in the unearthing of the rare mosaic that had been discovered in the remains of a Roman villa beneath a farmer’s field. It is the only UK find of its kind, displaying scenes from Homer’s The Iliad, and is one of only a handful from across the whole of Europe, measuring 11 metres by almost seven metres and depicts part of the story of the Greek hero Achilles.

Prof Roberts arrived a year after the mosaic was originally found, but was lucky enough to be right there in the heart of the action during its excavation.

She told Express.co.uk “I arrived at the field in Rutland in September when they were just about to start harvesting the wheat and then opening up the trenches over the part of the mosaic that had been covered up over a layer of sand, a membrane, and then the earth and a crop of wheat planted over the top of it.

“When I turned up the combine harvester had broken down and I thought goodness me I’m not going to be able to see this mosaic any time soon.

“But by the next day they had fixed it, and it was busy harvesting all the wheat and they were able to get mechanical diggers in to start opening the trenches.

“Then you take down the earth to a certain level and then you switch to digging by hand, then you peel back the membrane and brush away the sand so that the mosaic from last year was revealed.

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

“I knew that this was big, important and well preserved, but talking to somebody who had studied pretty much every mosaic in Britain, he said it was the most significant Roman mosaic find in 100 years.”

This was just one out of a host of other amazing finds made across Britain that Prof Roberts was lucky enough to investigate as part of her new series, with the first episode airing on January 4 on BBC Two.

But when asked about what her favourite find of the series was, she replied, “The Roman villa is up there certainly, it was absolutely stunning.

“I found it emotional to be there when it was being uncovered and to be part of the team doing that as well.”

The mosaic was first found by Jim Irvine, the landowner’s son, who stumbled upon the elaborate villa complex almost by accident.

He said: “A ramble through the fields with the family turned into an incredible discovery.

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

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

After one initial excavation, Prof Roberts joined staff and students from the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History for further examination in September 2021.

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He said: “A ramble through the fields with the family turned into an incredible discovery.

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

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

After one initial excavation, Prof Roberts joined staff and students from the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History for further examination in September 2021.

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