Roman villa with large mosaic found in Spain

The remains of a grand Roman estate with a large floor mosaic has been unearthed in the town of Rus in southern Spain. Found in the El Altillo neighborhood, the villa was in use between the first and fifth centuries, with the bulk of the construction documented thus far dating to the fourth century. The mosaic features motifs like guilloche knots and fleurs des lis in at least three colors.

Tesserae from the mosaics were discovered during recent agricultural activity in an olive grove half a mile from the center of town. They were reported the municipal authorities and the city commissioned archaeologists from the University of Jaén to do an emergency investigation of the site. When a geophysical survey and collection of material on the ground determined the site had significant archaeological potential, exploratory excavations followed.

The immediate goal was to document rooms with mosaic elements that might be in danger from agricultural work and/or looting. The investigation also aimed to map out the structures and uses of the ancient villa, exploring adjacent properties with the permission of the landowners to get a preliminary overview of the site.

The team found that the Roman estate was an expansive one and combined a large private residence with industrial areas. The mosaic covers the floor of the main reception room of the private residence. It was originally 30 feet wide and 60 feet long when intact, which would have made it one of the largest Roman mosaics ever discovered in the southern Iberian peninsula.

Across the property from the residence were production facilities for olive oil and a pottery kiln where roof tiles were made. There is also a burial area that dates to the Late Imperial period.

The city is excited by the prospect of an important archaeological asset attracting tourism, especially one connected to the area’s long tradition of olive oil production. It is working on drawing up new rules and processes to protect the remains that have been unearthed and to continue the excavations, in the future with the aid of volunteers from the community. The city council also hopes to have the site declared an Asset of Cultural Interest, which would give them access to funds to support additional exploration and preservation of the villa and its remains.

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Comment by Dr. E
2021-03-25 10:50:45

One would imagine that every olive orchard from Italy to Spain probably has the remains of a Roman villa underneath it.

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Comment by Divide E. Timpera
2021-03-25 18:00:52

Only nine miles north-west of the town of Rus –and presumably made of that brownish tessera stone– lies the Roman ‘Puente de Vadollano’, as it reads, “surrounded by ancient olive trees”. It seems to have been either part of or leading to the ‘Via Augusta’, and there might have been a few more ancient olive estates, mills etc.

In addition to the locals, there were Greeks, Cart(h)aginians, and later the Romans. Who in –what today is the nearby Elche in the Province of Alicante (Greek: Ἑλίκη/Helíkē) back in the 4th century BC made sculptures like the ‘Dama’, probably knew already a thing or two about olives and construction.


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Comment by Trevor
2021-03-26 02:21:51

Well, Dr. E., if you ever buy an olive grove there with the aim of making a profit from it, avoid pushing your spade in too far.

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