Grand Roman Wall Mosaic Unearthed

Posted by on Jan 18, 2024 in Stuff You Should Know, World History

In mid-December of 2023, an archaeological dig in Rome, Italy unearthed a mosaic wall mural estimated to be about 2,000 years old. A mosaic is an image made up of tiny bits of colored glass or stone covering a surface. The discovery of the mosaic is part of a five-year dig at Palatine Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome.  

The mosaic is large, about 16 feet (4.8 m) long and is in good condition. The mural’s images include land and sea battles, sea creatures, and a walled city. The designs are detailed and brightly colored, using fine materials such as coral, glass, shells, and tile.  

A Well-Preserved Mural  

 Because they were for decorative purposes the materials used for wall mosaics were not meant to last. However, this mosaic was discovered in good condition because it was buried in hundreds of years of dirt. The dirt preserved the mosaic from exposure to air and light. The mural is located in what was a large outdoor banquet room. Lead pipes found in the walls of the outdoor banquet room were likely used to provide water for fountains or even water games. The room was probably used for entertaining guests during the summer months.   

Ancient Roman Baths of Neptune Mosaic Floors Ostia Antica Ruins Rome Italy
This type of floor mosaic shows the artistic style of Roman art.

Uncovering and Presenting the City’s History 

There is always new history being uncovered in Rome by archaeologists. The history of the city is important because of the Roman Empire’s impact on the ancient world. And history also serves as a tourist draw that helps the economy. 

For example, a new area in the heart of ancient Rome just opened at the start of 2024. The Archaeological Park of the Colosseum (PArCo) includes the areas of Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum area. The five-year project on Palatine Hill that uncovered this mosaic was a portion of the work done to prepare this park for the public. 

Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum 

The home on Palatine Hill in which the mural was found belonged to a person of wealth, perhaps a Roman senator. Palatine Hill is the most centrally located of the Seven Hills of Rome. It is located near the Roman Forum, where much of Rome’s government activities took place. Many emperors and senators made their homes on Palatine Hill. 

The city of Rome was founded on this hill, as determined by the archaeological record and explained in a legend. The legend tells the story of the founding of Rome by twins Romulus and Remus, raised by a wolf on Palatine Hill.  

Palatine Hill overlooks the Roman Forum. Mosaics like the one discovered on Palatine Hill date back to the late 100s BCE. During this period, the Forum would have been bustling with activity, home to religious temples, markets, meeting places, and government activities.  

By the 700s CE, the Forum was in decline. The capital of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople in 330 CE. Fires and landslides damaged the buildings and monuments there as well. Structures at the Forum were stripped of stone for use on newer buildings and the city of Rome grew.  

By the 1200s CE, the Forum was covered in building debris and dirt. It wasn’t until 1803 that a significant excavation effort began unearthing the Arch of Septimius Severus. In 1898, the Italian government began official excavation of the site, revealing the Forum as it appears today. The view of the Forum from Palatine Hill is one of Rome’s popular tourist destinations.

Dig Deeper Research historical sites in your region or state. Record facts such as the age and function of the site and create a display about it.