Magnificent Ancient Roman Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Verona, Italy

One often hears about ren­o­va­tion projects that tear up linoleum, shag car­pet, or some equal­ly unap­peal­ing floor­ing to dis­cov­er a pris­tine (and now much more attrac­tive) lay­er of hard­wood or tile beneath. Any build­ing of suf­fi­cient age becomes a palimpsest, a col­lec­tion of era upon era of trends in archi­tec­ture and design: a look under a floor or behind a wall can poten­tial­ly become a trip back in time. The same holds for the land itself, at least in the parts of the world where civ­i­liza­tion arrived first. “In for­mer Mesopotamia there are hills in areas that should be entire­ly flat,” writes Myko Clel­land, bet­ter known as the Dap­per His­to­ri­an, on Twit­ter. “They’re actu­al­ly remains of entire towns, where res­i­dents built lay­er after lay­er until the whole thing became metres tall.”

Or take Negrar di Valpo­li­cel­la, home of the epony­mous wine vari­etal, one of whose vine­yards has turned out to con­ceal an ancient Roman vil­la. The dis­cov­ery at hand is an elab­o­rate mosa­ic floor which The His­to­ry Blog reports as “dat­ing to around the 3rd cen­tu­ry A.D.” So far, the dig under the Benedet­ti La Vil­la has revealed “long unin­ter­rupt­ed stretch­es of mosa­ic pave­ments with poly­chrome pat­terns of geo­met­ric shapes, guil­loche, wave bands, flo­ral vaults and the semi-cir­cu­lar pelta.”

Though the floor’s bril­liance may have been unex­pect­ed, its pres­ence was­n’t: that a Roman vil­la had once stood on the grounds “was known since the 19th cen­tu­ry. Indeed, the name of the win­ery is tak­en from the name of the con­tra­da (mean­ing neigh­bor­hood or dis­trict), evi­dence of cul­tur­al­ly trans­mit­ted knowl­edge of a grand vil­la there.”

Announced just last week by Negrar di Valipocel­la, the dis­cov­ery of this mosa­ic floor comes a result of the most recent of a series of archae­o­log­i­cal digs that began in 1922. “Numer­ous attempts were made in sub­se­quent decades to find the vil­la,” says The His­to­ry Blog, “and anoth­er small­er mosa­ic was dis­cov­ered in 1975 and cov­ered back up with soil for its preser­va­tion.” Though inter­rupt­ed by bud­getary lim­i­ta­tions, the work cycle of the still-oper­a­tional vine­yard, and this year’s coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, the project has nev­er­the­less man­aged to turn up a strong con­tender for the archae­o­log­i­cal find of the year. With luck it will turn up much more of this 1,800-year-old domus, giv­ing us all a chance to see what oth­er unex­pect­ed­ly taste­ful design choic­es the ancient Romans made. The images in this post come via Myko Clel­land, Dap­per His­to­ri­an on Twit­ter.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Roman Archi­tec­ture: A Free Course from Yale

Take Ani­mat­ed Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Tours of Ancient Rome at Its Archi­tec­tur­al Peak (Cir­ca 320 AD)

See the Expan­sive Ruins of Pom­peii Like You’ve Nev­er Seen Them Before: Through the Eyes of a Drone

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram

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