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Ancient mosaic discovered in Kom-El-Dikka. Source: Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook.

Researchers Find Roman Villas and a Spectacular Mosaic in Egypt

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In Egypt, archaeologists have found some important Roman ruins , in the historic city of Alexandria. They have also unearthed a masterpiece of Classical era art, a very rare mosaic. The artwork is helping experts to better understand the lifestyles and culture of the Roman-Egyptian elite.

The discovery was made by an Egyptian-Polish team. According to Ahram Online , the team included “archaeologists from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw”. They made the discoveries at the Kom El-Dikka archaeological site in the Egyptian port-city of Alexandria.

Elite Roman Villas

Kom El-Dikka was a Roman district in the heart of the ancient city. It was considered to be almost a separate city within the ancient metropolis of Alexandria. Kom-El-Dikka was once where many members of the Roman-Egyptian elite lived and was famous for its gardens.

According to the Daily News Egypt , the ruins of a “theatre, giant royal bathroom, group of 22 lecture halls believed to be the remains of an ancient university ” have been found at the location. The residential area dates from the 1 st century to the 7 th century AD and was inhabited by the wealthy from the early Roman period to the Byzantine period until the Muslim conquest of Egypt.

Discovery of Rome ruins, site of the ancient mosaic. (Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook)

Discovery of Rome ruins, site of the ancient mosaic. (Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook)

Experts have been working on the site since 1960. According to the Egyptian Independent , in recent years “the excavation works focused on the study of residential architecture in Alexandria”. They have unearthed some villas that belonged to members of the upper class from the 1 st to the 3 rd century AD. During the work on these, they made an astonishing discovery.

Huge Colorful Mosaic

The Egyptian-Polish team unearthed a huge and colorful mosaic that consists of seven hexagonal panels and is 8.5 feet by 8.5 feet (2.6 meters x 2.6 meters). The artwork was made from thousands of small tesserae, which are pieces of stones, glass, or tile.

The leader of the Mission Grzegorz Majcherek, told the Egyptian Independent , that the design was composed of lotus flowers , “framed by a circular guilloche pattern ”. The mosaic would have been a highly decorative piece of art at the time and would have been enormously expensive to create.

The mosaic consisted of 7 hexagonal panels. (Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook)

The mosaic consisted of 7 hexagonal panels. (Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook)

Majcherek also told the Daily News Egypt that the work, “featuring a circle inscribed into a square, was exceptionally popular in Roman Egypt ”. The mosaic also has a transversal field decorated with floral designs.

The mosaic included many floral designs. (Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook)

The mosaic included many floral designs. (Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook)

This design was one that was in particular associated with upper-class Alexandrine villas and houses. The mosaic was found in the dining room or a triclinium of a villa that belonged to a wealthy member of society. Majcherek, told Ahram Online that the work was “typical for the triclinia – the most imposing of the dining rooms in a Roman house”.

Here the wealthy owners of the house would entertain guests at his or her dinner parties . The mosaic was intended to demonstrate the wealth and social standing of the household and illustrates the wealth of those who once inhabited this area.

New Insights into the Roman Rich

The unearthing of the mosaic is very important as it shows this art form was very popular throughout the Roman Empire . It also demonstrates that the provincial elites across the empire had a very similar culture and that they also enjoyed very high standards of living. However, the work has some distinctive elements that show that Roman-Egyptians developed their own styles and motifs.

The mosaic had distinctive elements unique to the Roman-Egyptians style. (Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook)

The mosaic had distinctive elements unique to the Roman-Egyptians style. (Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook)

The head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, told the Daily News Egypt that the mosaic “is to be displayed at The Villa of the Birds”. This is a dedicated museum to the ancient art of mosaic, and it is also located at the Kom El-Dikka archaeological site. It is hoped that the mosaic museum will encourage more interest in the ruins of the archaeological site.

Top image: Ancient mosaic discovered in Kom-El-Dikka. Source: Ministry of Antiquities / Facebook.

By Ed Whelan

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