The region of Tuscany in Italy has long been known for its green rolling landscapes, high culture and historical heritage. Pertaining to the last part, archaeologists have unearthed part of a large ancient Roman mosaic with incredible details, while digging in an area close to a local road (in the small village of Capraia e Limite). Probably dating from the latter part of 4th century AD, the mosaic flaunts its exquisite geometric patterns combined with ‘organic’ motifs. And judging by its position, the expansive artwork was arranged along the floor of a ritzy Roman villa that existed for around 500 years, from 1st century to early 6th century AD.
Interestingly, the evidence of a large villa existing in the region was found way back in 1983, when workers, excavating the site for creating an orchard, accidentally uncovered pieces of black and white mosaic, with the name of the estate owner inscribed on one of the fragments. According to Lorella Alderighi, a researcher at the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany, the villa belonged to Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, a well-known pagan aristocrat who served as the praetorian prefect under Emperor Vallentinian II, until his death in the year 384. Coming from a wealthy, noble family, Vettius owned several magnificent villas in and around Tuscany. Federico Cantini, the leader of the excavation team and an archaeologist at the University of Pisa, added:
The Roman statesman and orator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus even complained in his letters that Vettius enjoyed too much opium in his estates in Etruria, instead of dealing with politics in Rome.
Originally built in the first century, the Capraia e Limite villa was remodeled and expanded in the 4th century AD, under the instruction of the then owner, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus. By the 6th century AD, the building was completely deserted and even plundered. The discovery of the ancient mosaic fragment, in 1983, sparked new archaeological investigation. Unfortunately, lack of adequate funding and legal issues prevented the researchers from conducting thorough examination of the site. Consequently, they had to return the mosaic to its original location, as a way of preserving it. Cantini said:
We speculated the mosaic floor extends further, thus we tested the hypothesis with a survey dig.
The archaeologists found two different mosaic designs: the first, dating to the second half of the 4th century AD, contained various geometric patterns enclosed within ornate frames of vine leaves and acanthus, in blue, black and grey. The second segment, likely created in the 5th century AD, depicted animals, flowers and even the bust of a man wearing a chiton. Cantini said:
We estimate the size of the floor mosaic to be about 300 square meters (984 square feet). We only have unearthed one-eighth of it.
A major portion of the mosaic currently lies underneath an industrial shed. Therefore, unearthing the entire thing might prove to be difficult. Of the sections that have already been uncovered, the one containing the wild boar hunting scene will be the first to be publicly showcased. The mayor of Capraia e Limite, Alessandro Giunti said:
Our goal is to open these beautiful artworks to the public. We are working to make this happen.
Via: Discovery News