PROGRESS on the new Wessex Gallery of Archaeology at Salisbury Museum continued to gather pace this week with the installation of the first exhibit, the Downton Mosaic.

This well-preserved mosaic floor was part of a fourth century Roman villa. The intricately patterned mosaic, which will take three weeks to install in the gallery, was uncovered in the late 1950s on a new housing development in Moot Close, Downton.

“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,” said Adrian Green, Salisbury Museum director. “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 to be featured in the new £2.4 million Wessex Gallery which will open later this year.

It has received just under £1.8 million funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund in recognition of the region's internationally important archaeological findings. The gallery will replace the old Stonehenge, Pitt-Rivers and Early Man galleries which are now closed to the public.