The first ever Roman mosaic in Britain dating back to the 5th century has been uncovered by archaeologists. The discovery has been described as being of “enormous” historical significance as well as a “tremendously exciting” find.
Archaeologists found the mosaic floor inside of the Chedworth Roman Villa’s “room 28” (it has a total of 35 exposed rooms). This villa is located in Gloucestershire, England, and although the discovery occurred in 2017, researchers from the National Trust only just recently completed the radiocarbon dating of charcoal and bone that confirmed the floor mosaic dated back to the 5th century. In fact, it would have been created after the year 424 AD.
The fact that the mosaic dated back to the 5th century is incredibly important because it had been previously believed that villas and towns began falling apart after they were abandoned in the 4th century due to an economic crash. Martin Papworth, who is a National Trust archaeologist, stated that the 5th century was the end of the Roman era and the start of the Dark Ages in Britain which there is very little documents from that time period, so finding the mosaic floor is certainly a tremendous find.
At the end of Britain’s Roman era, workers were not being paid anymore which caused a “production decline” in several industries and the mosaic floor is a perfect example of that as it was of “poorer quality” than what was made back in the 4th century.
On the other hand, the mosaic revealed that the population didn’t decline as quickly as what was previously believed and “sophisticated life” was around for a longer period of time, specifically in the southwestern part of England. Papworth explained this further by stating, “It has generally been believed that most of the population turned to subsistence farming to sustain themselves and, after the break with Rome, Britannia’s administrative system broke down into a series of local fiefdoms,” adding, “What is so exciting about the dating of this mosaic at Chedworth is that it is evidence for a more gradual decline. The creation of a new room and the laying of a new floor suggests wealth, and a mosaic industry continuing 50 years later than had been expected.”
He went on to say, “It is interesting to speculate why Chedworth Villa’s owners were still living in this style well into the 5th century. It seems that in the West Country, the Romanized way of life was sustained for a while.” According to the National Trust, Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the largest Roman villas in the entire country and is one of the best preserved.
Pictures of the mosaic can be seen here.