Investigating the construction methods of an opus vermiculatum mosaic panel

Smirniou, Melina, Verri, Giovanni, Roberts, Paul , Meek, Andrew and Spataro, Michela (2010) Investigating the construction methods of an opus vermiculatum mosaic panel. The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin, 4 . ISSN 1747-3640

BMTRB4 Smirniou.pdf
BMTRB4 Smirniou.pdf

Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


From the third century BC to the second century AD small detailed central panels (emblemata) made using the opus vermiculatum technique were used as focal points in larger mosaic pavements. They were custom made in stone or terracotta trays to facilitate their transport and placement. Although mosaic panels in opus vermiculatum have been discovered throughout the Hellenistic and Roman Mediterranean, the location of the workshops specialising in the production of the finely worked panels is still unclear. Their association with named artists, for example Dioskourides of Samos, and the locations of finds (such as the fragments of the floor by Hephaistion at Pergamon) point to workshops in the eastern Mediterranean.
A large unidentified fragment of an emblema, still in its terracotta tray, from the collections of the Department of Greece and Rome in the British Museum was the subject of analytical examination. These investigations of the tesserae (glass cubes), traces of pigments and mortar aimed to determine the raw materials and manufacturing processes for the mosaic and to characterise the nature of the application of paint to the mortar. Egyptian blue pigment and traces of hematite and carbon suggest that a fully coloured drawing was executed on the fresh mortar to guide the positioning of the tesserae. In addition, samples from the terracotta tray were taken in an attempt to identify its provenance. This contribution describes how the results of these investigations have been used to provide a deeper understanding of opus vermiculatum construction methods.

Keywords:Roman Mosaics, Archaeometry
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V110 Ancient History
Divisions:College of Arts
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ID Code:16612
Deposited On:01 Feb 2015 20:56

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