It’s not so unusual to find ancient remains under churches in Italian cities. Pretty much everything was built on top of a pre-existing Roman structure, and the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia is no exception.
This particular mosaic is notable both in size and in subject matter.
The mosaic pavement, which measures 13 square meters (140 square feet) and dates to the fourth century A.D., was unearthed at a depth of about 4 meters (13 feet) below the the ground’s surface during archaeological investigations in the crypt of the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia, in central-northern Italy.
“The size and design of the mosaic pavement suggest that it formed the floor of a huge room. We believe this was the residence of a wealthy Roman,” Renata Curina, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, told Discovery News.
It’s also full of nekkid people. Nekkid guy holding a lotus flower, nekkid guy carrying a brace of ducks, nekkid chick carrying a fish.
Again, not unusual to find nudes in ancient mosaics but the symbols and motifs are unique, possibly suggesting the homeowner worshiped one of the many varietals of imported deities.
According to Luigi Malnati, superintendent of archaeological heritage in Emilia Romagna, such pagan scenes must have been pieced together before 380 A.D., the year when the emperor Theodosius proclaimed Christianity the state religion. Indeed, a series of decrees in 391-392 A.D. banned and punished pagan cult practices within the empire.
And now, because I’m nice like that, here are all the pictures of nekkid mosaic people I could find: