Dorchester, former County Hospital

Uncovering the mosaicUncovering the mosaic
One major discovery by Wessex Archaeology was a Roman mosaic dating to about 350AD at the former County Hospital site in Dorchester in Dorset.
Dorchester has preserved many archaeological finds from its Roman past when it was called Durnovaria. Before building work began on the hospital site, Wessex Archaeology was asked to excavate for possible remains. The excavation, carried out in 2000 and 2001, was the largest archaeological investigation of the town for many years.
Excavation on the eastern side of the site revealed that wooden buildings had been put up in the mid-1st century. Slots for timber beam-foundations and rubbish pits were found, as well as two stone-built ovens.
Detail of the mosaicDetail of the mosaic Soil removed from the ovens was found to be full of herring bones so they may have been used for making a strong fish sauce called ‘garum’, an essential part of Roman cooking.
We found evidence of houses built in the 2nd or early 3rd century AD, including the remains of an external courtyard with a stone-lined well. These buildings were demolished in the 4th century and replaced by a new range to the west.
National Archaeology DayNational Archaeology Day This range comprised at least two buildings set around a courtyard. One of the buildings contained the remains of a fine multi-coloured decorative mosaic floor measuring some six by four metres that has excited interest among archaeologists and the public since.
On the 21st July 2001 – National Archaeology Day – the site was opened for public viewing and some five thousand people queued to see the mosaic before it was lifted for future conservation.
The final phase of excavation exposed remains of a large barn or warehouse constructed from timber set on stone plinths.
These discoveries provided information about the development of the Roman town and were of great importance both to the academic study of the Roman period and to the wider public understanding of Dorchester’s past.