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Fourth-century mosaic to stay in England

The Dewish mosaic will remain in the United Kingdom, as the Dorset County Museum has successfully raised £150,000 to purchase the artefact.

The 1,600-year-old floor panel showing a leopard attacking an antelope was unearthed by a team of archaeologists at Dewlish in 1974. The mosaic, measuring 2m by 2.4m, was discovered in the grounds of Dewlish House and formed part of the flooring of a Roman villa.

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This purchase was made possible due to nearly 100 donations from supporters both large and small. Key donations received include £50,000 from the Arts Council England, £40,000 from Art Fund, £30,000 from the Headley Trust, and £10,000 from the Association for Roman Archaeology. Further support was given by many other organisations and individuals from Dorset and further afield, including Richard Beleson, a San Francisco-based benefactor who is passionate about keeping Roman artefacts on public display in the areas from which they come.

“I’m delighted that through a true collaborative effort between Dorset County Museum, the export licensing team at Arts Council England, a wide range of funding bodies, archaeological organisations, and the local community, we have been able to save the Dewlish Mosaic for the nation, and for the people of Dorset,” says Jon Murden, Director of the Dorest County Museum. “It’s been a privilege to work alongside all these people on this most vital acquisition. I’m delighted that, once cleaned and conserved, it will take pride of place within the restored historic stairwell at Dorset Museum – alongside the other internationally significant Roman mosaics that are already in our collection in Dorchester. ”

The mosaic had been subject to an export bar imposed by the UK Government to help prevent objects of national importance from leaving the country. The bar that was due to expire on the 16th of October last year, was granted an extension to January this year after the museum made its intentions known to buy the mosaic.

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The Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society was among several organizations that contributed to the efforts of the museum to keep the artefact. Clare Randall, an archaeologist and Vice-Chairman of the society, commented, “The mosaic is not only beautiful, and one of the finest examples of figure work from Roman Britain, but it is part of the story of the Dewlish villa and its inhabitants. There were people living in Roman Dorset with wealth, connections and exquisite artistic taste, and it is objects like this that give us a chance to glimpse their lives.”

Conservator Riva Boutylkova, Director Dr Jon Murden and Museum Technician Mark Pettit, with the mosaic.

This acquisition reunites the new panel with two other fragments from the same mosaic which are already cared for by Dorset County Museum. It will be shown to the public when a new gallery of the museum is opened later this year.

Please visit the Dorset County Museum to learn more

Top Image: Courtesy Dorset County Museum

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