Archeologists have uncovered a rare, delicate Roman mosaic that dates all the way back to the mid-5th Century A.D. The discovery shocked researchers, who say that this mosaic was crafted during the “Dark Ages,” decades after Roman rule had ended in Britain.
The discovery, found at Chedworth Roman Villa, in England, calls into question some historical theories about this time period.
For example, it has long been theorized that Roman villas and buildings were abandoned after the empire broke down. Historians also suggested that the withdrawal of Roman troops occurred in Britain quickly.
However, this mosaic reveals that this may not have been the case; perhaps the transition from Roman rule was far more gradual than that.
“It has generally been believed that most of the population turned to subsistence farming to sustain themselves,” says Martin Papworth, an archeologist with the United Kingdom’s National Trust, in a statement.
“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.”
The mosaic was first uncovered in 2017, but only recently has the find been dated. Archeologists were shocked to discover that it was created after 424 A.D.
In fact, the result seemed so unusual that the National Trust ordered a second test for confirmation.
However, the radiocarbon dating was deemed correct, and now the National Trust is calling this the first known mid-5th-Century mosaic ever discovered.
The Guardian reports that the mosaic is lower quality than some of the 4th-Century work uncovered in the area, perhaps an indication that the craftsmanship and skill were lost as the Romans withdrew from Britain.
However, the work of art is still a breathtaking composition of Celtic knots and flowers wrapped in interlocking circles.
Though it’s unclear who might’ve inhabited the villa at the time of the mosaic’s creation, Papworth says it can be surmised that the residents were wealthy and influential.
“The fifth century is a time which marks the beginning of the sub-Roman period, often called the dark ages, a time from which few documents survive, and archeological evidence is scarce,” he said.
To protect the mosaic from the weather, the National Trust has had it re-buried. Now, they are seeking funding to turn the site into an augmented-reality experience, in which the public could explore the mosaics in the area for themselves.
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