2300-year-old mosaic made of shells and coral found buried under Rome

2300-year-old mosaic made of shells and coral found buried under Rome

Last week, after a five-year excavation of Rome's Palatine Hill, researchers unearthed a magnificent banquet room from the first or second century BC. It had a sizable, undamaged, and vibrantly colored wall mosaic.

The work is a portion of a bigger aristocratic residence near the Roman Forum that has been under excavation since 2018. Its estimated age is 2300 years.

Mother of pearl, shells, corals, broken pieces of priceless glass, and marble fragments were painstakingly used to construct the mosaic picture, which is about five meters (16.4 feet) long and features images of vines, lotus leaves, tridents, trumpets, helmets, and mythological marine creatures. Exotic, ancient Egyptian blue tiles, porous travertine, and polychrome crystals surround the artwork.

According to archaeologist Alfonsina Russo, head of the Colosseum Archaeological Park, who oversees the site, this discovery is "unmatched" because of the mosaic's amazing conservation as well as its decoration, which includes triumphant scenes of land and naval battles that were probably financed and won by a very wealthy aristocratic patron who painted a memorial to their victories on their walls.

The project team has been taken aback by the intricate representations of victory in the mosaic. They depict a walled town on the seashore with lookout towers and loggias, perched atop a cliff carved out of travertine rock fragments, which Russo suggested might be an ideal or actual setting. In addition, there are pictures of sailing ships with their sails raised and pictures of mythological sea monsters engulfing enemy fleets.

The display's fragile coral branches, which were costly at the time, are being examined by archaeologists to determine if they originated in the Red Sea or the Mediterranean, which were the Romans' most frequent and closest oceans for material extraction. The team believes that a rare bluish glass paste that was also used in the design originated in Alexandria, an ancient Egyptian city.

In an interview with CNN, Russo stated, "This banquet hall, which measures 25 square meters (270 square feet), is just one space within a 'domus' (the latin word for house) spread out on several floors." "When strong noble families used to live on the Palatine Hill, it was common to use ornate decorations as a way to flaunt wealth and social standing."

Russo called the room a "jewel," an outdoor banquet hall with a garden view that was probably used in the summer to host parties.

A lavish area like this would have also been utilized to wow visitors with water sports, which were highly favored by the upper class at that era. Russo stated, "We have discovered lead pipes embedded inside the ornamented walls, intended to transport water inside basins or to make fountains spout to create water games."

Professor Marco Rossi of the Università degli Studi di Roma Tre in Rome, who oversees the mosaic lab and specializes in Roman antiquities, noted that the summer banquet rooms served as a symbol of the mansion owner's riches and status in addition to being a place of relaxation for both hosts and guests.

"Normally, mosaics are found on floors, but this one has been incredibly well-preserved and spans the entire front wall," Rossi said of the artwork. Although delicate, it hasn't even chipped throughout the years. Nor has it been destroyed by the weight of garbage, as can happen to certain mosaics on the ground.

According to Rossi, it is exceptionally rare to find a full wall mosaic, in part because the floor mosaic pieces are made to bear pressure and are not as delicate as the wall mosaic parts.

Scientists think that the great home's location has contributed to the wall's preservation. Situated atop the renowned Palatine Hill in Rome, the building and its valuables have been shielded from the elements by layers of soil after being covered over for centuries by mud and earth due to land movement.

While there are still many mysteries surrounding this new find, such as why the land was abandoned and how long ago, Russo thinks there is one that archaeologists might be able to solve: The identify of its owner, probably a senator from Rome.

According to Russo, the owner of the mansion was extremely wealthy, as seen by their ability to acquire priceless pieces from all across the empire for decoration. "We think more research might enable us to pinpoint the noble family, but we have found nothing to shed light on their identity thus far."

Early in January is when Russo and her crew hope to open the area to the public. "We (will) keep exploring this haunting location's other levels and sections in an effort to find out more," she remarked. "It truly is an amazing demonstration of Roman opulence."

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Leave A Comment
    1 out of ...