All roads lead to a Roman’s bedroom: archaeologists dig up rare mosaic in remains of ancient Roman villa in Georgia

A floored past. The mosaic may well have belonged to the house of a garrison commander. Agata Trzop-Szczypiorska

Polish archaeologists have uncovered fragments of a 2,000-year-old mosaic in Georgia. The rare find was unearthed during the excavation of the remains of a house belonging to a Roman legion commander at the former fortress of Apsaros, near the Georgian town of Batumi.

The Poles have been working in Apsaros for several years but this season they decided to focus on the ancient villa.

"In one of the rooms, located at the back of the house belonging to the commander of the Roman garrison, we discovered the remains of a floor made of small cubes that formed a mosaic," Professor Radosław Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski from the Warsaw University Institute of Archaeology told Nauka w Polsce.

Mosaics such as this one are rare finds in garrison towns located on the edges of the Roman Empire.Agata Trzop-Szczypiorska

Since the remains of the room are located deep in the spacious villa, it cannot be ruled out that it was a bedroom.

The Polish team is cooperating closely with Professor Shota Mamuladze, the director of the Gonio-Apsaros Museum-Reserve. During previous research seasons, archaeologists found a very well-preserved mosaic decorated with geometric motifs in an adjacent room. The work was created in the first half of the 2nd century AD. What makes this find unique are the colours – green and black – which the scientists haven’t there seen before, unlike the more common white, red and yellow.

"Floor mosaics are rarely found in military constructions erected by the ancient Romans. The houses of commanders in such borderland garrisons usually went without such luxuries," emphasised Professor Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski. To date, only several examples of mosaics have been discovered in Georgia, including the ones at the magnificent royal residence in Dzalisi.

The find follows in the wake of the unearthing of another mosaic on the same site a few years ago.R. Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski

In the case of Apsaros, the floor on which the mosaic was located was laid above the so-called hypocoustic basement. Under the floor, there was a heating system typical of rich Roman homes, as well as bath buildings. Over time, as the floor sank into the basement, the mosaic was destroyed. Therefore, the discovered cubes were in both the basement debris and at a slightly higher level.

According to the archaeologists, the owner of the villa could have been the governor of the Roman province of Cappadocia, Arrian, who during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117 - 138 CE), personally visited Fort Apsaros. Arrian was not only an official, but a well-known intellectual and researcher of ancient history. He is the author, among others, of one of the preserved descriptions of the expedition of Alexander the Great.