Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 11:35 UK

Roman glass dish found in grave

Roman millefiori dish
The Roman millefiori dish was pieced together from its many fragments

A rare Roman millefiori dish has been unearthed by archaeologists from the grave of a wealthy Londoner.

The dish, which has gone on display at the Museum of London in Docklands, was found during excavations in Prescot Street, in Aldgate, east London.

It was pieced together from its many fragments.

It is made up of hundreds of translucent blue indented glass petals, bordered with white embedded in a bright red glass background.

'Extraordinary opportunity'

Other ceramic and glass vessels were also ranged along the sides of the casket.

Liz Goodman, Museum of London archaeology conservator, said: "Piecing together and conserving such a complete artefact offered a rare and thrilling challenge.

"We occasionally get tiny fragments of millefiori, but the opportunity to work on a whole artefact of this nature is extraordinary.

She said the dish is extremely fragile but the glasswork is intact and illuminates nearly two millennia after being crafted.

The dish formed part of the grave goods of the Roman Londoner whose cremated remains were uncovered in a container in a cemetery in Londinium's (the Roman name for London) eastern quarter.

Archaeologists believe its complexity means it was a highly-prized and valuable item.

Glass experts say it is the first time such a complete dish has been found outside the eastern Roman empire.

Millefiori means "one thousand flowers" and is a glass working technique using glass rods with multi-coloured patterns that are only visible at the cut ends.

The name of the Roman Londoner whose grave the fragments were found in has not been revealed.

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