The Butser Ancient Farm Roman Villa mosaic project has reached a significant milestone – the final tessera of the geometric border has been laid!
Since we resumed work this month the team has made enormous progress, laying almost as much of the floor area in two weeks as we did in two months last year. In part that’s because our mosaicists are now experts in their professions, and partly because a lot of our work over the past week or two has been in the border – with much larger tesserae (tiles) and no tricky pattern to lay. But the other reason things have speeded up is that we had extra help from many, many of our visitors over the Easter break. People of all ages were down on their hands and knees helping us get the floor finished. The help was much appreciated and it seems like everyone had an absolute ball doing it – a real win-win!
As well as being a really nice, authentic floor covering for our villa, the mosaic was a piece of experimental archaeology. It has provided us with some interesting insights into the process of mosaic making, using quite authentic techniques. In keeping with that authentic experimental approach, we have also included the initials of each one of our mosaicists in the border of the design. Now, we can’t say for certain that any Roman-British mosaicist did this, but there are lots of ‘mistakes’ in mosaics around the country, which look rather obvious, even deliberate. Some people think that these are sort of ‘coded’ messages by the makers to say ‘I did this’. In keeping with this secretive approach, we have hidden the initials in plain sight – with subtle shifts of pattern which are not easy to spot. Once we have opened the mosaic fully for public view you might enjoy a game of spot the mosaicist!
We still have a little more to finish off but it is all very simple to lay from here forward, so we’re hoping to have it all done by the end of May. That means we will have a fully redecorated triclinium, ready to welcome the Emperor, and all of our visitors!