Boxford

in the Royal County of Berkshire

Mosaic (page 1 of 2)

The stories in the mosaic

Thought this from Anthony Beeson might be helpful to those subscribing to the blog who were not volunteers.

The Triumphs of Pelops and Bellerophon            Anthony Beeson

This remarkable pavement is unlike any found in Britain for its originality, design and the subjects covered. It attempts a three dimensional or trompe l’oeil effect and celebrates triumphal feats.

Four telamons or giants stand at the corners supporting a pergola covered with guilloche (plaited rope) pattern. They step out of their roundels. They are so far matched only on a pavement in the Vatican museum, Rome. Four cupids holding the crown of victory burst out of their roundels on each side.

In this outer border Hercules slays a centaur and a cantharus (drinking cup) fill on one side. In the next border an archer possibly Pelop’s son Alcathous, shoots at the Cythaeronian lion in the other border behind the back of the telamon. The fleeing lion is joined in the border by a figure about to bridle a horse which possibly represents Alexander’s triumph over his steed Bucephalus when he turns it away from viewing its shadow.

In the centre of the mosaic one section shows Bellerophon on Pegasus defeating the terrifying monster Chimera, who had the head and body of a lion, the head of a goat growing from her back and a serpent tail, all of which shot flames. This is the finest representation of Pegasus found in Britain. The image was popular in Britannia and was gradually transformed into that of St George and represented the triumph of good over evil.

The main subject of the floor is the story of Pelops and his victory over King Oenomaus. Told that his future son in law would kill him, the king challenged each suitor to a race, but handicapped them by placing the Princess Hippodameia in their chariots to slow them down. All were defeated and beheaded. A panel shows Oenomaus presenting his daughter Hippodameia to whom a guard points. This guard is the only representation of a contemporary armed 4thcentury warrior found in Britain. 

Below this panel. Pelops bribed Myrtilos, the king’s charioteer, with promises of half the kingdom to replace a lynch pin in his master’s chariot with a wax one so that the wheels came off and Oenomaus was killed. The funerary games and chariot races are reputed in myth to have been the birth of the Olympics. Myrtilos and Pelops argued and the former was thrown from a cliff, cursing his former friend as he died. Pelops’ descendants were thereby cursed.

And so to bed

Boxford ‘s Mosaic is now sleeping peacefully under a thick duvet of sieved soil before the trench was backfilled.

Steve and Paul barrowing and spreading whilst Mark was shovelling.

And Scud finished off with the back fill.

Hope you all have a copy of the Newbury Weekly News where the exploits of the last couple of weeks is described ……with plenty of Chris’ photos.

Yesterday many of the sponsors, who made the dig possible came to see the villa and were stunned to see the mosaic. Today many have written to say how amazed they were that the mosaic had been uncovered so professionally in 10 working days. Some achievement! Well done to all of you and thanks to the CA team for guiding us so well.

Just in case you missed the sponsors’ board at the entrance to the site:

  • The Headley Trust
  • The Ardeola Charitable Trust
  • The Adrian Swire Charitable Trust
  • The Englefield Trust
  • The North Wessex Downs Landscape Trust
  • The Greenham Common Trust
  • The Good Exchange
  • The Council of British Archaeology
  • ASPROM
  • Newbury Building Society
  • Many other generous individual personal donations

Recording and recording

The last couple of days have been busy recording the villa for Anthony, Matt and the team and busy for the finds processing team of Joy, Jenny and John.

What was particularly thrilling was to find that tesserae were still present and in formation under the damaged floor level where roof tiles had punched the floor into the softer than expected sand screed layer.

It has been very windy at times and some of the team have made the most of being in a hole!

Photos today from Richard

Thanks to all our photographers – Richard, David and Chris – who have made such a huge difference to the recording of the excavations and the life of a community dig. A tremendous thank you too to the Cotswold team led by Matt who have been good natured and patient with everyone…….. in all circumstances!

Day without diggers

Strangely quiet today. Work has started on the recording of the villa. But one thing the BHP wanted to record was a very BIG THANK YOU to our visitors to the Open Day last Saturday. We did not charge an entrance fee but asked for a donation ………. which we have been counting ever since and the Grand Total is £4,500!!! How wonderfully generous of them – so thank you again visitors and we are so pleased you enjoyed it that much. It will help to fund the conservation of finds – particularly metalwork.

There’s nobody there! We are closed in spite of what it says in the Daily Telegraph

Open Day

Stunned and thrilled in equal measure at the one and only Open Day yesterday. Stunned that as many as 3000 people came and thrilled to bits that there was that much interest in Boxford’s Mosaic.

Pictures below are trench 2 – The Mosaic trench – if you can see it!

Anthony Beeson “interpreter extraordinaire” of the figures on the mosaic

And Alice Jones who continued whilst Anthony had his lunch!

Matt Nichol describing the villa itself

The Combo!

Sam describing trench 1 ………………in the sun and in the rain!

Queuing to look in the “Finds” tent – artefacts and pictures were on display

The Mosaic 6m x 5m- the walls of the room can be clearly seen.
The figurative panels are surrounded by a red tesserae border

Pictures today from Richard and David

Many thanks go to the many local volunteers, BHP trustees and members and the Cotswold team who work so hard yesterday to make the Open Day such a success. Special thanks to Anthony Beeson who had many new fans amongst the audience, who found his interpretation of the mosaic story both illuminating and entertaining.

Update: Visitors to the Open Day were very generous and made many donations into the buckets provided. Because of the rain some of this got wet, so it spent the night in the airing cupboard drying out ………John Hayward has suggested this might be described as money laundering! Anyway it is not all dry yet but so far we are up to £2000 and counting!! This will go some way to funding the cost of conserving all those metal objects that the volunteers dug out of the ground! A big thank you to all our visitors.
Look out for The Times and The Mail – both have asked to use the blog photos.

Last day for diggers

A hectic day of cleaning before the Open Day. We also welcomed Radio Berkshire who did a live 3 hour programme from the site! But first the team photo!

A man happy in his work

Oh what a lovely mosaic!

Some special finds from the 3 Roman Mattockeers!

Photos today by Matt and David

Day 9 for diggers

The story of the mosaic is revealed! Anthony Beeson saw the key to the puzzle when he saw a lynch pin in the mosaic. It seems that one object was the key to the discovery that the main mosaic panel was the mythical Greek story of Pelops.

Today was the story of clean, clean and clean again in preparation for the Open Day on Saturday.

How many times have you cleaned the kitchen floor with a toothbrush?

Water was an issue

Even the walls had to be cleaned straight and level

And all day a mound of soil was sifted by Mark which will eventually be used to re-cover the mosaic

Lunch was a welcome break

Tomorrow is the last day of the dig – Radio Berkshire will presenting their afternoon show live from the site between 13.00 – 16.00
Thanks to you all for your hard work which has made it all possible.

Dig Day 8 Visited by Aunty Beeb

Anthony Beeson being interviewed by BBC South Today (to be screened on Friday)

Freya

Matt

Joy

Fay and Emma

Washing the floor for the first time in 1700 years

A visit to the site today by Alan Baylis and his wife Margaret. Alan and his family had farmed the Mud Hole field for many generations. It was he who pointed out the true location of the villa in the field

Some of David’s photos below of the “workers” yesterday when it was so hot.

Whilst some took a moment or two to chill!

Matt and Tina carefully extricating the metal hoard found in the wall yesterday by Alex.

Photos above from David and Richard

Coin photo and research thus far by Chris

Boxford Dig day 7 – the mosaic revealed

At the beginning of the day Matt set the diggers a task of removing the last of the debris from the mosaic……..by the time of the morning break! It focussed minds and all heads were down and working hard.

But we did it!

Next it was down to fine brushing in preparation for several sponge downs!

In the meanwhile, Alex had found a metal stash in the mosaic room wall – who put it there? Was this at the end of the Roman era, from someone using a derelict villa to hide it, in a chaotic cashless society when bartering would have been important?

Hook or earring? Made of copper so possibly the latter.

This tool was also found but is it Roman? Possibly Victorian left by the farmer putting in the land drain.

A message across the centuries – one that we still have to decipher!

Photos today from Richard and Chris

Dig day 6 – Phew what a scorcher!

Brilliant shot of the site

Some Roman put his foot in it – you can see the hobnails

Absolute miracle that this ring came to whole considering the mattocking!

Some of the finds processing team

Anthony happy in his work cleaning and deciphering the images on the mosaic

Patiently cleaning back the mosaic

Photos from David and Richard with thanks

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