Curator's Choice: Fishbourne Roman Palace

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The Independent Culture
The exhibit I've chosen is a first-century black-and-white mosaic floor, found in what we think was the main dining-room of the palace. It's a strange combination: there's a previously known design of geometric patterns, but that's surrounded by a remarkable border representing a fortified town wall.

The owner of the palace may have been a man called Cogidubnus, a local client king installed to look after Rome's interests in this area, and the combination of these two designs was possibly at his request. In the early occupation of Britain there would have been craftsmen coming over with samples, much like wallpaper pattern books, which they would have shown to their clients and said, 'What do you want in this particular room?'

One of the first excavations I was involved in was at Fishbourne. The overlying mosaic was blistering rather badly so we had to lift it and relay it on a stable bed: this presented an ideal oportunity to look beneath. We dug a trench up the western side, not knowing what to expect, and one of the volunteers uncovered a lovely piece of complete mosaic floor that nobody had seen since about A D 160. Ironically, the place where we decided to dig the trench did actually coincide with the best-preserved piece of the floor.

My choice would have to be a mosaic, as that's what Fishbourne is all about, but this one is special because it's the first discovery I personally made here and there is nothing else quite like it anywhere.

David Rudkin, director, Fishbourne Roman Palace (a property of The Sussex Archaelogical Society), Salthill Rd, Chichester (0243 785859). 10am-6pm daily

(Photograph omitted)