A well-preserved Roman mosaic, described as the "most exciting" discovery in decades, has been uncovered in Berkshire by a local community archaeology dig. It features many scenes from Hellenic mythology.

The mosaic, dated from around the 4th century AD, features Bellerophon, a Hellenic hero, riding the winged horse Pegasus. The panel shows a scene where they attack the fire-breathing monster Chimera. As a reward for killing the beast which had a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail, Pegasus was offered the King Iobates' daughter, Philonoe. The myth would later form the basis of the St George and the dragon legend in Christian times. Joy Appleton from the Boxford History Project told The Independent:

"I was stunned. It’s an amazing mosaic with so many figures. There is every Greek mythical figure found on a British site. The owner of the Roman villa in which the mosaic was found, wanted to display his knowledge as there are so many characters and beasts from Greek mythology."

Among the most spectacular scenes is Hercules killing a centaur, possibly Nessus, whose poisoned blood later caused the death of Hercules. Other illustrative elements on the mosaic contain scenes previously unknown on other UK sites, said archaeological experts. Anthony Beeson, a member of the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics, described the find as:

"[...] without question the most exciting mosaic discovery made in Britain in the last fifty years and must take a premier place amongst those Romano-British works of art that have come down to modern Britons."

Luigi Thompson, who visited the site and is known for his paintings of mosaics said:

"If I had the choice of only doing one painting in my career, it would be this one. It is the most delightful, lively and charming pavement I have ever seen. It causes me to imagine, with pleasure, the villa owner entertaining his guests with his knowledge of classical mythology."

Less than half the mosaic, a six-meter strip richly patterned with mythical characters, was uncovered in the last two weeks. It has now been buried again to protect it. The dig volunteers, some without previous experience of working on archaeological sites, are hoping to fundraise for another excavation next year.