Archaeologists Discover An Ancient Roman Mosaic Beneath A Supermarket Construction Site In England

Published March 22, 2023

The mosaic was likely part of a villa and bathhouse during the Roman occupation of Britain nearly 2,000 years ago.

Roman Mosaic At Aldi

Twitter/Oxford ArchaeologyArchaeologists examine and clean the ancient mosaic.

Archaeologists examining the site of a future Aldi supermarket in the small town of Olney, England, just came across an ancient Roman mosaic buried in the dirt.

Because the area surrounding Olney is rich with Roman artifacts and settlements, the developers of the site wanted to commission an excavation before beginning the construction of the grocery store. They called upon Oxford Archaeology, who made the stunning discovery. Experts believe the mosaic was part of a villa and bathhouse dating back to the Roman occupation of Britain, between 43 and 410 C.E.

According to BBC, John Boothroyd, a senior project manager at Oxford Archaeology, stated: “Due to the site location we anticipated some notable Roman remains, but the discovery of this fantastic mosaic far exceeded those expectations.”

A nearby Roman settlement in the area dates back to between the second and fourth centuries C.E., and this mosaic may be from a similar time period.

As reported by CNN, researchers stated that “the uncovered sections, remarkably vibrant, show a blue and cream decoration on the outer border and a red, white, and blue pattern with typical Roman decorative elements in the infill.”

Additionally, archaeologists unearthed several stone structures that they believe the residents of the villa once used to collect water for the bathhouse. They also found building debris and pieces of ceramic.

Experts believe the mosaic and other structures likely extend beneath a nearby road, so they are unable to fully excavate the site at the moment. However, they have preserved what they have found thus far so that construction can continue around it as planned.

Olney Excavation Site

Twitter/Roman Britain NewsThe mosaic was found at the construction site of a future Aldi supermarket.

This isn’t the only piece of ancient Roman history found in England in recent years. In 2022, archaeologists made a “once-in-a-lifetime find” when they unearthed a 2,000-year-old mosaic in the heart of downtown London. More than 26 feet wide, the mosaic was likely the floor of a formal dining room, or triclinium.

Around the same time, researchers uncovered a Roman “service station” along an ancient road in Bishop’s Stortford, 30 miles northeast of London. The site likely held an inn, a blacksmith’s shop, a temple, and various other amenities for weary travelers.

While experts may not know just how extensive this recent discovery is yet, it is still causing plenty of excitement.

Anthony Williamson, the executive director of the property development company, noted, “The mosaic find is amazing and has taken us all by surprise — was not expected,” per the Independent.

He continued, “The Roman mosaic adds to our knowledge and understanding of our history and it will be fully recorded and the information published in due course.”

After reading about the Roman mosaic discovered beneath the construction site of an Aldi supermarket, discover 33 facts about ancient Rome that will change the way you see history. Then, go inside 11 of the most interesting archaeological discoveries of 2022.

Amber Breese
Amber Breese is a former Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.