LONDON — A team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester in central England certainly has a golden touch.

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Nearly a decade after uncovering the remains of King Richard III under a car park near Leicester Cathedral, the university’s archeology team unearthed a Roman mosaic featuring the great Greek hero Achilles in battle with the brave Hector during the Trojan War. This time in a farmer’s field about 160 kilometers (100 mi) north of London.

The mosaic is the first ever depiction of the events of Homer’s classic ‘The Iliad’ in Britain.”


John Thomas, deputy director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services and project manager on the excavations, said the mosaic says a lot about the person who commissioned it in late Roman times, between the 3rd and 4th centuries.

“It’s a man with a knowledge of the classics who had the money to commission a piece of detail like this, and it’s the first illustration of these stories we’ve ever found in Britain,” he said. “This is certainly the most exciting Roman mosaic discovery in the UK in the last century.”

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In light of its rarity and importance, Britain’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Thursday granted the mosaic the country’s oldest form of heritage protection. It is now a scheduled monument, which makes it a criminal offense for anyone to excavate or even locate metal around the site.

“By protecting this site we are able to continue to learn from it, and what future excavations can teach us about the people who lived there 1,500 years ago,” said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England.

The mosaic in Rutland County was found by Jim Irwin, whose father Brian Naylor owns the land, during the excavation of an elaborate villa complex made up of several structures and other buildings during last year’s lockdown. Irwin then informed the authorities, prompting the university’s archaeological team to excavate.

He described how what began as “a ramble through the fields with the family” led to “incredible discoveries”.

“The last year has been a total thrill to be involved in,” he said.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of the mosaic, which measures 11 meters (36 ft) by approximately 7 meters (22.9 ft). Human remains were also discovered in the rubble covering the mosaic and are believed to have been interred after the building was not occupied.

The excavations, which remain on private land, have now been back-filled to protect the site and work will continue to potentially convert to grassland to reduce the risk of damage from future tillage.

The university team has little time to rest after its latest excavation success. In January, they are due to begin excavations near Leicester Cathedral, in what is expected to be the city’s deepest excavation, in hopes of finding long-lost treasures from medieval and antiquity.

The team is most famous for the search for the lost tomb of Richard III, which began in August 2012. In February of the following year, the university announced that they had found the remains of the last Plantagenet king of England and the last English monarch. are killed on the battlefield. He died in 1485.