The Reconstructed Panel: Cutting to Size
We were pleased to find that we had just about enough to complete the cantharus. Some pieces had to be cut down to fit. We only used larger tesserae, and some pieces of broken Roman roofing tiles from the site.
The mortar used in the Villa floor had been analysed. Brick or tile dust was used in the lime based mortar to give strength by the Romans and us. The test block gave a chance to work out how to smooth the upper surface and if we were likely to need to polish it.Photo Copyright © Pauline Rook
We chose to lay the panel on a slab of blue lias, a very stable stone and the type from which the blue tesserae had been made, and possibly from a neighbouring quarry.
The design was pricked through from the traced plan onto the fresh bed, the pricked holes joined up using red ochre. The surfaced was scratched through so the next layer of mortar could be keyed onto it.Image frm larger photo showing the underlying drawing. With Gina Wrights help, small areas of the red ochre pattern were covered with fresh mortar and the tesserae from the laid out pieces were transferred to the final panel.
The surface needed to be levelled before the mortar set hard. In the way that the lines and forms in the design were copied Gina and Nick felt that at least two mosaisists had been involved in it's original construction. There were very few spare pieces available and this lead to tension during the last day of the construction.
The grouting gave it's thick final covering, when sponged off were at last able to get the sense of the glory of the floor when first completed in the 4th century A.D.
For the revealing to the general public it was covered with silver sand, so in brushing this away those involved with the early stages of the initial excavation could relive those amazing moments less than a year before.