Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Roman mosaics are spruced up in time for festive season

Roman mosaics are spruced up in time for festive season - Local stories - Yorkshire Post

Published on Wednesday 21 December 2011 06:00

A SPOT of water and a cloth was all that was needed to bring centuries-old Roman mosaics up to scratch.

The Horkstow, Harpham, Rudston and Brantingham mosaics, which are considered among the finest in the country, decorate the walls and floors of the Hull and East Riding Museum's Roman galleries.

The Horkstow and Rudston mosaics on the floor, which date back to the fourth century, needed a spruce up after seven years gathering dust. The Romans used to clean their mosaics with olive oil, but all that was required was a "not very damp" cloth – and definitely no soap.

The museum's curator of archaeology, Paula Gentil, said: "What you don't want is to use lots of water. It is a Roman mortar which is lime-based and any mortar would just be dissolved.

"You have to be careful because you can damage them quite easily, you have to watch the edges."

She added: "It is a really good way of getting to know a mosaic as you are basically crawling all over it."

Early mosaics were made by Roman craftsmen, but later ones were probably made by locals trained up to be mosaicists, a highly-skilled and well-paid job.

"Mosaics were used to show how Roman you were and that you were very wealthy," Ms Gentil added.