Some of the best examples of art in Roman Britain are the mosaics which floor villas, townhouses and public buildings across the island. Leicester has one of the earliest recorded mosaics in the country, the Cyparrisus Pavement, discovered in 1675.
Join Mathew Morris from University of Leicester Archaeological Services to find out more about Leicester’s Roman mosaics, watch a film about how archaeologists undertake the painstaking process of lifting and conserving a mosaic and have a go designing and making your own.
The trappings of elite Roman culture, such as villas, mosaics and baths, were seen as important indicators of civilisation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when many mosaics in Britain were first uncovered. Antiquarian and archaeological interest was fuelled in part by a widespread belief in the benefits of empire; between 1815 and 1914 400 million people came under British rule. The concept of Romanisation, believed to be an inevitable and generally beneficial process resulting in the adoption of a Roman way of life, underpinned Roman archaeology from the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Today archaeologists are understandably less sympathetic to these ideas; nevertheless, some of these early excavations were pioneering in terms of the recording of buildings, mosaics and other finds, and are still used by archaeologists today.