The Corinium officinae

We’ve had lots of questions about the mosaics from visitors over the past weeks and people have been intrigued to know their age, how they were made, and what makes the colours.  Experts have suggested that it is possible to recognise the work of individual mosaic officinae or workshops in Britain.  Chedworth has mosaics produced by two officinae based in Corinium or Cirencester as it is known today.  Our corridor mosaics probably date to the fourth century AD and contain red, white and blue colours.  The red tesserae or tiles are cut from brick and tile.  The white colour comes from local limestone, and the blue from a rock called lias shale which is found in Dorset. 

Mosaics can contain complicated patterns which help us to identify their workshop.  The image above shows a section of corridor with a ‘guilloche mat’ inserted between a circular motif, with a border of plain stripes.  Guilloche is a pattern based on textiles consisting of twisted multicoloured strands.  A mat is formed by many strands laid in a rectangle and is a Corinium speciality.  The top right corner contains a section which could be a maker’s mark although this is hard to see.  It is probable that this design was laid directly onto opus signinum which is a form of Roman concrete (Source: Peter Johnson, Romano-British Mosaics published 1995 by Shire Archaeology).

Our new volunteers Emily, Tony and Phil have been enjoying their first taste of mosaics today:

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