British archaeologists warned Tuesday that an ancient Roman site in Folkestone was at risk of falling into the ocean within the next century.
The Canterbury Trust, which manages the site, announced that the Roman villa there was in danger on the same day that it revealed that archaeologists had exposed a mosaic in the structure. It marked the first time the mosaic had seen the light of day since 1957.
That year, the mosaic was buried by archaeologists because they could not afford to keep it on view. During the ’20s, the villa was a tourist attraction. At the time, around two-thirds of the original mosaic were found.
Damage wrought during World War II left the villa in what the Canterbury Trust called a “sorry state.” With the cost of upkeep growing too great, the mosaic was covered over.
It is not uncommon for archaeological sites to be covered over. The reasons why vary, although common ones include a lack of money and natural threats.
The villa in Folkestone was built in the 2nd century CE. It once had more than 50 rooms and 2 bath-suites.
Keith Parfitt, the lead archaeologist for the villa, called it a “very important site in the archaeology of southern Britain.”
Parts of those original bath-suites have been lost, however, and the Canterbury Trust also warned that other portions of the villa could be destroyed within the next century, due the instability of the clay cliffs on which they are set and coastal erosion. Some experts have said that the latter is caused by climate change .
What will happen next with the mosaic is unclear. The Canterbury Trust said it planned to rebury it at the end of September, then to consider whether it should be moved to a museum for permanent preservation and display.
“It is hoped that organised visits can be arranged to give local residents, community groups and schools a chance to see the remains before the site is backfilled,” the Trust wrote in its announcement.