This weekend I went to a Mosaic Day, near Milton Keynes, organised by David Neal, to promote what is essentially his life’s work, a corpus of British Roman Mosaics: The Roman Mosaics of Britain by David S. Neal and Stephen R. Cosh. The day consisted of David and Stephen displaying some of their 1:10 scale meticulous paintings of Roman mosaic, ranging from vast, almost complete mosaic floors to records of tiny remnants of pattern. David Neal gave an introduction and overview of the collection, including a summary of his career. Stephen Cosh talked about the early mosiac illustrators, many of whom were gentleman antiquarians from the eighteenth century.
How can Roman mosaics best be illustrated? Mosaics are difficult to photograph even under good conditions: because of their size and situation, often only an oblique view is possible. Furthermore, many are known only from photos, usually black and white, usually oblique, and rarely of the entire mosaic. Thus to get an overall idea of what an ancient mosaic looked like, the best solution is a painting to scale, together with photographic evidence, and this is the solution adopted in the corpus of Romano-British mosaics by David Neal and Stephen Cosh..
As well as describing and illustrating the mosaics, the corpus deals fully with context and evidence: there are accounts of excavations, photographs of all figured mosaics, reproductions of early engravings and detailed plans of villas. The result is an unrivalled scholarly resource for anyone interested in Roman art, craftsmanship, architecture and social life.
Roman mosaics are perhaps the most spectacular Roman remains in Britain. Many of the finest come from Roman villas, where they reflect the high artistic tastes of the wealthy villa owners in the fourth century. Most are in colour, and many are figured, almost always with classical scenes.
David Neal has been painting mosaics for many years in his capacity of chief illustrator of English Heritage, but following his retirement, he joined with Steve Cosh to produce a corpus in four volumes of all the known mosaics in the country. Between them they set out to paint them all by hand: many of them are only known from oblique black-and-white photos, but by drawing them, and restoring the original colours where these are known, it is possible to show just what they originally looked like.
Archaeologists say there is “compelling” evidence they have found the mass burial site of British and Australian troops who were killed during World War I. They believe the bodies of up to 400 soldiers remain in unmarked graves in northern France near the site of the Battle of Fromelles. A geophysical survey has located burial pits where hundreds of soldiers were buried after the battle.
Dr Tony Pollard, the director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, has just returned from the site. “To my knowledge this is the largest unmarked mass grave from the First World War to be discovered in modern times,” he said. “There have been multiple graves in the past, but they’ve been maybe 20 to 30 men. We’re talking here of somewhere in the region of 400 men according to the German records that we have”. He said a metal detector survey revealed a number of artefacts including metal objects with Australian Army insignia on them. “The only way they could have got there really is on the dead bodies of Australian soldiers,” he said. “The bodies haven’t been disinterred and buried elsewhere. We believe there’s strong evidence that the bodies are still buried in that field.”
The RAF has scheduled a fly-past over the East Sussex coast to celebrate the 110th birthday of Britain’s oldest man. Two tornadoes from 31 squadron are to fly over the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne for the anniversary on Tuesday.
He served as a mechanic with the Royal Naval Air Service during the war, before transferring to the newly-created RAF
Mr Allingham turned 111 on 6 June and is the only surviving veteran of the Battle of Jutland in 1916.