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A Roman villa containing a rare mosaic that depicts scenes from Homer's Iliad has been found beneath a farmer's field.

The mosaic, found in Rutland, has been described as the first example of its kind in the UK.

The site was discovered by Jim Irvine, son of the landowner, Brian Naylor, during the 2020 lockdown, and has been investigated by archaeologists from the University of Leicester in partnership with Historic England and Rutland county council.

Historic England described the mosaic as "one of the most remarkable and significant ... ever found in Britain".

The mosaic and surrounding villa complex have now been protected as a Scheduled Monument by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport ( DCMS ) on the advice of Historic England.

it is likely to have been occupied by a wealthy individual from the late roman period, sometime between the 3rd and 4th century ad.

"During lockdown last year, I noticed some pottery on the ground which didn't look like any pottery I'd seen before.

"We came down here with a spade and I dug a shallow trench and I was in exactly the right place."

The remains of the mosaic measure 11m by almost 7m and form the floor of what is thought to be a large dining or entertaining area.

mosaics were used in private and public buildings across the roman empire, and often featured famous figures from mythology.

it is unique in the uk as it features achilles and his battle with hector at the conclusion of the trojan war.

The villa is surrounded by what appear to be aisled barns, circular structures and a possible bath house.

john thomas, deputy director of university of leicester archaeological services and project manager on the excavations, called it "the most exciting roman mosaic discovery in the uk in the last century".

"it gives us fresh perspectives on the attitudes of people at the time, their links to classical literature," he said.

“ This [ the villa's owner ] is someone with a knowledge of the classics, who had the money to commission a piece of such detail, and it ’ s the very first depiction of these stories that we ’ ve ever found in Britain. ” Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, added that discoveries like this were "so important in helping us piece together our shared history".

It was discovered during excavations of an elaborate villa complex discovered on a site in Rutland, Historic England said.

"I'm delighted we have protected this site to help further studies and excavations."

the discovery of the rutland villa and filming as the mosaic is uncovered will be featured as part of bbc two's digging for britain in early 2022.

"a ramble through the fields with the family" led to the "incredible discovery".

"finding some unusual pottery among the wheat piqued my interest and prompted some further investigative work.

"Later, looking at the satellite imagery I spotted a very clear crop mark, as if someone had drawn on my computer screen with a piece of chalk.

"This really was the 'oh wow' moment."

Human remains were also discovered and are thought to have been interred after the building was no longer occupied.

The artwork, which dates back to the third or fourth century AD, depicts a scene from Homer's The Iliad- the epic fight between Achilles and the Trojan hero, Hector- and is one of only a handful of such mosaics in Europe.

The dig, on private land, has now been back-filled to protect the site and work will continue to potentially turn over the field to grassland to lower the risk of future damage from ploughing.

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