(Cupid on a Dolphin) had been laid directly on top of an earlier monochrome design (see CA 217). This is now known as the Fortress Mosaic; it comprises a central panel of 16 squares, each containing a geometric pattern, the whole of which is surrounded by a complex border depicting a fortified town wall. Evolving evidence As new details of the palace’s make-up became clearer, so too did its timeline: in 1963, excavations on the East Wing uncovered evidence of much earlier activity than was expected. Traces of a timber structure – interpreted as a
Roman military granary similar to one found at Richborough – together with small finds of armour and weaponry suggest that the site was in use around AD 43, possibly as a short-term military encampment for Legio II Augusta before they moved westwards. This intriguing aspect of the site’s pre-palace occupation is a subject that is still under research to this day.
Indeed, in 1995-1999, additional excavations carried out by the Sussex Archaeological Society, headed by David Rudkin and John Manley, revealed more information about the area directly to the east of the below & right Traces of ornate formal gardens have been discovered at Fishbourne; these have been recreated by the modern museum.
left A model recreating the palace at its height in c.AD 75-80. Two centuries later, the complex was destroyed by a mysterious fire.
palace. Of particular interest were the remains of an imposing courtyard building that has been compared to a principia or military headquarters (CA 152 and 187). This investigation also uncovered a substantial ditch containing quantities of local Late Iron Age Atrebatic pottery, as well as some early imported wares, including an Arretine cup made in 10 BC-AD 10. Combined with the discovery of part of a sword scabbard in the ditch fill in 2002, this provides further evidence of a potential early military occupation of the site.
The palace’s final days are equally enigmatic: the investigations uncovered evidence of a catastrophic fire that tore through the complex c.AD 280. The heat was so intense that lead and glass from the windows melted, and some of the ceramic roof tiles were refired. At the time of the blaze, building works had been under way, with the palace’s owners having a brand new hypocaust (under-floor heating system) put in; after the fire, the site