The earliest mosaic ever found at the Roman Baths in Bath has been discovered during excavations taking place in advance of the Archway Project, which will extend the public access into a new area of the site.
The mosaic was found by local volunteer Fiona Medland who is part of the team of volunteers from the Bath & Camerton Archaeological Society (BACAS) that are helping professional archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology to carry out the dig.
Fiona said ‘Finding the mosaic was the luck of being allocated “the sewer” to clean up. I thought it was just the edge of the door threshold until it dried a bit and showed all the individual tesserae [cubes of stone]. So I cleaned it up further and revealed a couple of rows, totally stunned. I have been helping BACAS for 10 years now, this is my first real find and a dream come true. Thank you all for allowing us to partake in this fabulous project, I know everyone has enjoyed it.’
The mosaic was found in the threshold of a Roman room. So far, just a few of the small cubes of stone that make up the floor have been uncovered. They are a creamy buff colour and are made from local stone. They are small in size, about 1 centimetre square, and carefully laid.
Stephen Clews, Manager of the Roman Baths said, ‘A mosaic in this position is likely to be plain or with only a simple geometric design. Although we only have a few cubes of stone to go on we can confirm that from its position in the building sequence this must be the earliest mosaic yet known from the site, dating to the later first century AD.
It shows that right from its inception the Roman Baths was furnished with all the trappings of a very fine establishment.
We will discuss with Historic England how we should approach any further uncovering of the mosaic.’
The Archway Project is a major development delivering the new Clore Learning Centre, an extended public viewing area for the Roman Baths and a new World Heritage Centre for the city. The project is being carried out by Bath & North East Somerset Council, the owner and operator of the site.
Councillor Paul Myers, (Conservative Midsomer Norton Redfield), Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “This is a very exciting discovery and we look forward to finding out more about the mosaic. When the new Clore Learning Centre and World Heritage Centre open in 2019, everyone – from school children to visitors – will be able to learn more about the fascinating history of Bath and the Roman Baths in state-of-the-art surroundings.”
The Archway Project is supported by National Lottery players through a £3.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
For more information go to www.romanbaths.co.uk