Roman mosaic found in Libya

London - German archaeologists have discovered a spectacular Roman mosaic in Libya that is deemed to be one of the finest examples of the art form to have survived, the Times reported on Monday.

According to the newspaper, British scholars regard the 2 000-year-old depiction of an exhausted gladiator as a masterpiece comparable in quality with the Alexander mosaic in Pompeii.

Mark Merrony, an archaeologist who specialises in Roman art, told the Times: "What struck me was the realism of the depiction. The image of the recumbent gladiator is nothing less than a Roman masterpiece executed by the Sandro Botticelli of his day."

Archaeologists from the University of Hamburg were working along the coast of Libya when they uncovered a 9m stretch of five multicoloured mosaics created during the first or second century.

The mosaics show with extraordinary clarity four young men wrestling a wild bull to the ground, a warrior in combat with a deer and a gladiator. The gladiator is shown in a state of fatigue, staring at his slain opponent.

They decorated the cold plunge pool of a bath house within a Roman villa at Wadi Lebda in Leptis Magna, one of the greatest cities of antiquity.

Although the discovery was initially made in 2000, by Marliese Wendowski of the University of Hamburg, it had been kept secret until now, partly to ensure that the excavations were not disturbed by looters, the Times said.

It had also been difficult for archaeologists to enter Libya. But this had changed with the 2003 agreement on compensation payments to the families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie air crash and the subsequent lifting of United Nations sanctions against Libya.

Libya was now keen to open the country to tourists and the mosaics were being placed on public display at the Leptis Magna Mosaic Museum, the Times said. - Sapa-dpa

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