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Herbert Hidden Histories: Roman Mosaic Fragment

An iconic part of ‘being Roman’ was, if you could afford it, to have a mosaic floor. 

The new people in power brought with them innovation, new styles and ways of living that improved ordinary people’s lives. A decorative floor made of small stone squares could be made into patterns or pictures and was a world away from a beaten earth or clay floor of an Iron Age round house. They were easy to keep clean, looked wonderful and could be shown off to visitors much like a new carpet might be today.

This small fragment of mosaic pieces in their original matrix was discovered through archaeological field work at Warwick University and is now in the care of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. It will be on display in the new enthralling exhibition Roman Empire: Power and People which runs from 17 May until 21 August.

The mosaic piece is made of 26 square stones set into a gentle curve. It dates to between 100 and 300 AD when the Midlands had settled down to the new Roman way of living and all its benefits such as trade across Europe and the Mediterranean. The pieces are unfortunately all white (the most common colour) and are probably from a classic Roman scroll style border. This was typically used in corridors and as a border round the edges of a room either with a picture in the centre or a geometric pattern. Roman rooms with mosaic floors had very little furniture which would be placed near the walls, as you were expected to stand and admire the floor. 

This is a very interesting find, as no villas or temples where mosaics would usually be found have been discovered in or around Coventry. A building important enough to have a mosaic floor was once somewhere near the university, most likely now destroyed.