Roman villa mosaic from Stanwick Lakes goes on public display
A Roman mosaic unseen in public for more than 20 years is to go on permanent display in Northamptonshire.
The relic once formed the centrepiece of one of four floors in a Roman villa that was discovered by archaeologists at Stanwick Lakes in the 1980s.
It was taken to English Heritage's centre in Portsmouth for safekeeping.
After Northamptonshire County Council spent £10,000 on its restoration, it is to go on display at the nature reserve where it was unearthed.
Alyson Allfree, director of the Rockingham Forest Trust, which co-manages the reserve, said: "We are delighted that the mosaic has finally come home to the place where it was discovered.
"Persistence finally paid off."'Priceless'
Ms Allfree said it was impossible to put a price on the mosaic, which is 5ft (1.5m) high and 8ft (2.5m) wide.
What the Romans left behind
- The Roman army left Britain more than 1,500 years ago
- The Romans built new roads, baths and sewers
- Plants and animals, such as parsley, sweet chestnut and chickens were introduced
- The Romans brought measurements such as miles, feet and inches
- The Romans also introduced Christianity to Britain
"We asked English Heritage... if we needed to insure it for some vast sum, and they said it was priceless in the sense of that there isn't another one and you can't really value them because they are so unusual and rare."
The excavations of Stanwick Lakes in the Nene Valley were a collaboration between archaeology teams from Northamptonshire County Council and English Heritage and took place between 1984 and 1992, before the start of sand and gravel quarrying.
Archaeologists discovered evidence of human activity dating back over 6,000 years, but the most important find was the Roman villa.
It would have been at the centre of a farm estate supplying food to the local towns and villages.
The villa was lived in for more than 200 years, starting as a stone-aisled hall in the middle of the Third Century before being developed into a more prestigious home in the second half of the Fourth Century.
Andy Chapman, senior archaeologist for Northamptonshire Archaeology was part of the original team working on the dig in the 1980s.
"It's good to see it [the mosaic] back.
"Hopefully it'll bring even more visitors in to learn about the whole of the heritage of this valley, which runs for thousands of years."