Butser Ancient Farm

Roman mosaic recreated at Butser Ancient Farm

For the first time since the Romans left Britain about 1600 years ago, a new mosaic is being laid on the floor of a Roman villa in Britain. The Roman villa at Butser Ancient Farm is a replica of a villa discovered at Sparsholt near Winchester.

Unlike during Roman times, this mosaic isn’t being made
by slaves, instead a dedicated team of volunteers are creating a copy of the mosaic found at
Sparsholt villa. The team includes volunteers from Liss Archeology and Bignor Roman villa. The
original mosaic was discovered about 50 years ago and is now displayed in Winchester museum.
While many Roman mosaics have been recreated, the big difference with this mosaic project is that
is it being laid directly on the floor in the villa, instead of being made off-site and then brought in to
the villa in sections. One of the main aims of recreating the mosaic is to take the Butser villa a step
closer to the original. The team at Butser Ancient Farm have been repainting the villa inside and out
to enhance the rooms and give visitors a stronger sense of what it would have been like to visit a
villa during Roman times. The bright colours and geometric designs, taken from original wall plaster
found at Sparsholt, would have created vibrant interiors that are startling to visitors today.
This won’t be a tile-for-tile (or tessera-for-tessera) reproduction of the original. The hand-cut marble
cubes are a substitute for the original native stone and terracotta. The aim is to reproduce the
original design, dimensions and colours as closely as possible. At about 8000 tesserae for each
square metre of floor, there will be about 86,000 tiles in the central geometric design section and
another 30,000 larger tesserae in the surrounding single-colour border.
Work on the mosaic will continue throughout the summer at Butser Ancient Farm, and visitors are
welcome to come and observe the progress. There will be a series of talks for visitors to explain the
ideas and techniques behind the project.
The team at Butser Ancient Farm appreciate the support they have received from the Winchester
Museum, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Bignor Roman Villa, Liss Archaeology and South Downs National
Park. Each of these organisations showcases significant elements of Romano-British history and
heritage and this project is facilitating a co-operative approach between all stakeholders to help
foster a broader public understanding of the fantastic Roman heritage of Hampshire and West
Sussex. Butser Ancient Farm would like to especially acknowledge South Downs National Park for
their generous support through the Sustainable Communities Fund.