Work begins to reveal Roman mosaic under Colchester shops

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Mosaic found under Red Lion Yard, ColchesterImage source, Martin Leatherdale/Lion Walk
Image caption,
A Roman mosaic floor in a Colchester shopping centre is being uncovered and will be preserved for the public to see

Work has started to unearth a Roman mosaic buried under a pavement outside a vape shop.

The tiles were originally discovered in the 1980s in Colchester, Essex, the former Roman capital of Britain.

Builders carrying out works for a shopping centre at the time, revealed the mosaic but then recovered the area.

The project to permanently uncover the mosaic at Red Lion Yard and display it beneath glass is expected to be completed by the end of summer.

Martin Leatherdale, centre manager of Lion Walk shopping centre, said displaying the tile art would help promote the city's Roman heritage.

The initial dig is outside a vape shop but Mr Leatherdale said that the team, led by Lion Walk and Colchester City Council in partnership with Colchester Archaeological Trust, will be "expanding our hunt".

"We're uncovering what's already been found and we're also exploring further than that," he said.

"The amount of traffic and inquiries and engagement that it gets is just off the scale. I've never seen anything like it."

He said the first stage of investigative works is to "fully understand how much remaining mosaic is underground".

Image source, Martin Leatherdale/Lion Walk
Image caption,
Work to uncover the roman mosaic will last until the end of summer

There will be secondary work to look at the "moisture content of the ground, which needs to be scientifically considered for the encapsulation", he added.

Philip Crummy, director of Colchester Archaeological Trust, said: "The exposing permanently of part of a decorated Roman mosaic in Colchester is a fantastic idea.

"Over 40 mosaics have been recorded over the past two centuries in Colchester.

"I am fairly sure there are more mosaics in Colchester than any other Roman town in Britain.

"Coloured mosaics are something that people associate with Romans and Colchester is not well enough known for its Roman heritage as it ought to be.

Image source, Martin Leatherdale/Lion Walk
Image caption,
Colchester, where this mosaic floor is being excavated, was the former capital of Roman Britain

David King, leader of Colchester City Council, said: "It is glorious to see our rich history unveiled again."

The Romans, led by emperor Claudius invaded Britain in AD43. Their control of the nation ended in AD410.

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