Verulamium Park

Mosaic mystery
FEARS have been raised that parts of the city’s old Roman town – which lies beneath Verulamium Park – have disappeared.
Archaeologists say there is a genuine concern that parts of the old town could be missing.
Their concerns came to light on Sunday during a dig.
The experienced team from St Albans District Council dug up part of a second century manor house buried under the park expecting to find a colourful mosaic tiled floor, discovered by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in the 1930s.
But instead they were greeted with remains of the room’s foundations.
Simon West, who heads the team, believes Sir Mortimer could have taken the ancient pieces and sold them on for a penny each in the 1930s.

Now he fears that other ruins recorded by him in the area may not be there either.
Mr West, who has been digging with his team since last Monday, said: “It was certainly a surprise to discover that it was no longer there.
“We wanted to dig up this room to take modern records and see if it had changed, so we have fulfilled our brief but unfortunately in a negative way.
“It does make me worry whether this is a one-off or whether other parts of the old Roman town that were recorded by him are also missing.
“We will have to look into making further excavations to find out.”
But there could be other reasons for the mystery.
Mr West added: “There could be two other explanations. Mr Wheeler could have taken the pieces to complete another more important mosaic or he could have sent them off for conservation work which was never completed, but you would have expected him to have recorded that.
“This is not a criticism of him if he has taken them and sold them on, there were no controls in those days so he would have been quite free to take them, but it would have been nice if he had told us.”
Verulamium Park, named after the Roman town, is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country and is recognised as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The site was dug up for the first time in the 1930s by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who was hoping to find a British Pompeii, and recorded all his discoveries.
Two months ago the council was given permission by English Heritage to excavate the small area – the first dig on the site for ten years – and tied in the work with National Archaeology Week.
The public was invited to watch the team – made up mostly of experienced volunteers – and the Young Archaeologist Club at work while the museum offered free activities for children.

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2 comments on “Verulamium Park

  1. Brett Holman says:

    Oh, nice one, Sir Mortimer.

  2. saesferd says:

    Imagine – If there’d have been eBay in the 1930s, Sir M would have been a Powerseller!

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