The Rudston Aquatic Mosaic

mosiac detail

The Aquatic Mosaic paved the 'apodytherium' or changing room of the bath-house at the Roman villa near Rudston, East Yorkshire. It was discovered in 1933 together with the Venus Mosaic and the Swastika Mosaic.

All three were donated to Hull Museums in 1962 and can be seen in the Hull and East Riding Museum. The Aquatic Mosaic is displayed on the wall in a reconstruction of a Roman bath-house.

Less than a quarter of the mosaic survives, but enough remains to estimate that it would have measured c. 3.2 x 2.46m. It seems that the mosaic was a replacement for the original floor of the changing room and dates to the early 4th century, c. 300-300AD. Aquatic mosaics are rare in Britain, and this example is unique in the North.

Fishy Forms


The central panel shows fish, dolphins, an oyster-like bivalve and other sea-creatures although it is very difficult to identify the species. Unfortunately the central section is partly missing but we can still see what looks like a wavy mass with two L-shaped projections and a rounder projection to the right. Although it is difficult to be certain, this is likely to have been the bust of an aquatic god such as Nepture or Oceanus.

The wavy mass would be the god's tousled long hair and the rounded projection part of his forked beard. This doesn't explain the L-shaped projections though, unless they represent a crustacean's legs. Perhaps it was a sea-monster and not a god at all?

Flowers


Immediately around the central panel are borders of lotus flowers. Only two border panels remain as it is now displayed but it is likely that the flowers extended all the way round originally. The two side-panels have a tree growing inwards towards a bird. Little remains of this area but one side still retains part of what could be the handle of a cantharus or wine-cup.

As with the Venus Mosaic from the same house at Rudston villa, the Aquatic Mosaic is naive in contrast to other Romano-British examples. Again it is likely that a native British mosaicist was copying a pattern-book image.