A stunningly well preserved Roman mosaic floor dating back to the 3rd century AD has been discovered hidden under the soil of a vineyard in Italy.
The floor, found in a hilly area above the town of Negrar di Valpolicella near Verona, was uncovered just a week after archaeologists returned to work from lockdown.
The area was already known to researchers, as the remains of a Roman villa had been found there a century earlier, but that dig was abandoned in 1922.
Historians described it as the discovery of the year and town officials confirmed they were working with the owner of the land to make the historic site accessible.
Last year, a team from the Superintendent of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape of Verona started digging again, to uncover more of the ancient home.
Work began in October 2019, but was suspended in February 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic – putting Italy in a strict lockdown.
A week after work resumed they found the stunning mosaic floor hidden underneath a row of vines and are now gently excavating the rest of the area.
The first round of images to appear online show the pristine floor and foundations.
On their Facebook page, Negrar di Valpolicella officials said the goal of the dig is to ‘to identify the exact extension and exact location of the ancient construction.’
Roberto Grison, the mayor of Negrar di Valpolicella, told the local newspaper L’Arena it was a cultural site of special value and deserves attention.
‘For this reason, together with the superintendent and those in charge of agricultural funds, we will find a way to make this treasure enjoyable,’ he said.
Historian Myko Clelland said the find was one of the most important of the year.
‘Newly discovered just outside of Verona, what could be this year’s biggest discovery – an almost entirely intact Roman mosaic villa floor,’ he said on Twitter.
He said there are many examples of similar stunning pieces of history buried under foot – in fact, he said there are parts of former Mesopotamia where there are hills in areas that should be entirely flat.
‘They’re actually remains of entire towns, where residents built layer after layer until the whole thing became metres tall,’ he told the Metro.
‘A thousand possible reasons, but a very loose rule of thumb is about an inch of soil per century, it’s amazing how humanity has a habit of just building on top of previous efforts. Rome is a fascinating example, many rediscoveries there on a regular basis!’
Authorities in the town are working with the owners of the site to find a way to ensure the ‘archaeological treasure’ can be accessible.
‘Subsequently, the Superintendence will connect with the owners of the area and with the Municipality to identify the most suitable ways to make this archaeological treasure available and open and visible under our feet,’ they wrote.