Rug maker finds Roman villa during ping pong prep

Luke Irwin stumbles upon discovery while getting electrical wires installed to outside building
An example of a Roman floor mosaic. (Izanbar |

Ping pong is a pretty fun game. Exciting even. But it's safe to say that when I say "ping pong" you don't think "rare archaeological discovery". And yet it was a home renovation to allow for nighttime ping pong matches that led to a very rare find on a farmhouse in Wiltshire county, Britain. (Fun fact: Wiltshire county is home to the world famous prehistoric stone monument Stonehenge.)

In February 2015, an English rug designer named Luke Irwin hired workers to install some underground electrical lines to a building so his son could play ping pong there in the evening. But when the workers started digging, they found something. Something hard. And colourful. A mosaic!

It's Roman for "hard pretty floor puzzle"

So, back up. "Mosaic"? It's okay, I had to look it up, too. A mosaic is artwork that is made of hundreds, even thousands of small coloured tiles, stones, or glass. A mosaic can show a picture or a scene. Back in the day, it might show something like soldiers in battle, gods and mythical monsters, or various animals. But many mosaics were made to show designs of repeating patterns. They were often used to decorate walls or, as in the find in Luke Irwin's backyard, the floor. Mosaics were especially common in the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia (what is today called Iraq), Greece, and Rome. Irwin's mosaic is a Roman one.

But I thought he lived in Britain

Yep, I was just getting to that part. About 2000 years ago, the Roman Empire was the greatest power in the world. It covered much of southern and central Europe, as well as parts of the Middle East and northern Africa. And the northern-most part of the empire? That was Britain. Romans brought their sense of architecture and style everywhere they conquered. They made homes and structures just like the ones they had back home. After Irwin made his discovery, he contacted experts who began to explore the property further. Today, they believed that this location was once home to a huge Roman villa, or estate. A discovery like this, especially by accident, is extremely rare.

While the archeologists continue to dig, Irwin has turned his discovery into the inspiration for a new collection of rugs. But before you decide to order one for your home (Happy Birthday, Mom!), keep this in mind: they're pretty expensive. Geez there, Luke, what do I look like? Some kind of Roman emperor?

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