Herts Ad comment: Shameful state of hidden gem

Herts Advertiser comment

Herts Advertiser comment - Credit: Archant

One has to question the rationale of the archaeologists who went to the trouble of excavating and removing a 2,000-year-old mosaic from the ruins of Roman Verulamium, only to conceal it for decades beneath some tatty carpet tiles.

Not only was removing the artefact unnecessary and unwarranted from a historical perspective, but the lack of care and attention given to it afterwards beggars belief.

Because after just three months of exhibiting the 3.6 sq m mosaic to the public, it was covered up for half a century by first a wooden floor and then the carpet tiles which have caused it so much damage.

This nondescript covering has left the historic floor tarnished by carpet glue, and the council will now have to find around £50,000 to have it properly cleaned and restored before it is moved to a more suitable location for future display.

Officers at the district council have blamed their predecessors’ “unusual” views on heritage protection for the current state of the mosaic, but one has to ask why so little has been done to maintain and celebrate this 2,000-year-old gem over the decades since it was first excavated? It’s not as if nobody knew it was there, so why the reluctance to make something of it?

Hopefully now that more members of the public have had a proper chance to see the mosaic in all its glory (ignoring those unsightly glue stains for the moment), there will be no chance of it disappearing beneath a cheap carpet for another 50 years.

After all, wouldn’t it make a perfect showpiece for the entrance to the new museum and gallery at St Albans Town Hall, properly preserved under the right sort of protective covering of course?

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With this project having now reached the final fundraising stretch, announcing the addition of the mosaic to the design could be just what it needs to win over those last few donations from the general public.