A RARE Roman mosaic is being installed at the new Wessex Gallery of Archaeology at Salisbury Museum.
The Downton Mosaic is a well-preserved mosaic floor which was part of a fourth century Roman villa.
The intricately patterned mosaic was uncovered in the late 1950s on a new housing development in Moot Close, Downton. It is the first exhibit to be installed at the new gallery, which opens this summer, and it is expected to take about three weeks to put in.
Museum director Adrian Green said: “We believe this section of the mosaic came from the central room of the villa, which may have been the dining room. The date of the objects found at the villa suggest it was built in the late third to early fourth century AD and remained in use for about 50 years.
“The mosaic is made from tesserae – small cubes of stone and pottery laid close together to form a pattern - and the central design shows a drinking cup with a pair of handles shaped like dolphins. Considering its age, it’s in excellent condition. No other mosaics of this quality have been found in the Salisbury area.” The Downton Mosaic is one of more than 2,000 items that will feature in the new £2.4m Wessex Gallery.
It will house one of England’s most extensive collections of Stonehenge and prehistoric artefacts including the Amesbury Archer. “The new gallery will bring the prehistory and history of Stonehenge and Wessex back to life,” said Mr Green.
“We’ll have some incredibly rare and exciting artefacts which have never been shown in public and fascinating displays which will give a wonderful insight into early Britain, from the mathematical genius of the ancient Britons and Beaker people through to the Roman invasion, the Norman Conquest and medieval Salisbury.”