The Discovery: Mosaic Patterns and Designs
The mosaic was believed to be the work of the Saltire School based in Corinium, now known as Cirencester. The main characteristics of these designs are large squares and saltires (St Andrew's crosses), with central roundals. The mosaic is multi-coloured or polychrome (Poly = many, from the Greek polus - much and chrome from Greek khroma - colour). The use of the various tones of blue, white, buff and brown, and the red of the terracotta, gave great richness.
The southerly end almost 7m x7m and the north end 4.5m x 4.5m. The design at first glance seems symmetrical but gradually it becomes apparent that that is not the case.
The largest and best preserved area is in the south. The outer border is as elsewhere, set with the larger tesserae, within which the main decorative panel was placed. I will describe it as approached in the way of a visitor walking through the ante chamber and moving towards the south. On your left there is a fish heading south (sadly much of the body missing) within the leaf and guilloche border.
The first of the fine tesserae form a wider band around the whole of that part of the room. Both panels are surrounded by a band of ‘cornice’ or egg and dart motif. This series of circles, here separated by ‘apple-core’ shapes, each contains a heart-shape leaf. The leaves are alternately inward and outward pointing. Within this band a further border and the first of the guilloche (a plait or braid). This one appears double stranded.
With the exception of this border, the design lacks symmetry, although the geometry remains important for our understanding of how the design was laid out
The double heart - some with a simple intertwined pair of links- a guilloche knot with a leaf tip at each apex. Some have diamonds and triangles or hour glass forms, others split squares and one a meander.
In B3 the middle panel is a saltire, pointing towards the corners of the room. It is centred by a roundel with an indefinable middle.
The L shape formed by line D1-D4 and to A4 has some of the other motifs included and some new. D1 shows a half of an interlinking square star ofdouble cord guilloche and in the space contained within, a half octagon with three heart-shaped leaves pointing towards a half circle.
D2 appears have contained what is also in B4, a rectangle containing a 3 cord guilloche plait, flanked by two sets of lozenges, as two cubes or perspective boxes set together.
In D3 the image that was flashed across the world by the world press, the dolphin swimming west.
In the south west corner a cube had on its 'flat' surface a guilloche knot with hour glasses on the lozenges. Turning the corner to C2 the half octagon contains a cup from which spring two leaves, linked by their stems.
Ante chamber Northern section of room 1
The ante chamber was badly damaged but has a scheme of irregular octagons developing small squares. There is a recessed area to the east,the wall following the line of the east wall in Room 1a. This has a floor of the large tesserae. The mosaic in the south rectangle links into a panel running north south. The ‘leaf in circle’ design continues as the boarder but the band of guilloche appears to change from two strand to a four strand plait or guilloche.
To the south west of the panel is a small block of dark and light grey checker pattern, there is a similar area in cream and blue to the east and red and cream to the north. A segment of the umbrella roundel was visible on the south and in-discernible to the south. To the north west ahalf hexagon contains a half circle and a severely damaged interior. To the east another roundel resembles the one in B2.
The narrow room 4 running to the west has a central panel that differs from the other rooms in a number of respects. The side panels of large creamy grey are wider throughout the preserved length. The first border in finer tesserae is of blue triangles set in light grey. A simple blue square at the eastern end contains an eight point petalled flower but atnits centre two interwoven links of a guilloche knot. Beyond this to thewest a larger area of meander in dark blue and then finally to a squarencontaining three (and probably a fourth) heart-shaped leaves with stems to the corner.
It is believed that the pattern continued beyond the limits of the excavation.
Back to top