Luke Irwin at his home, next to the gate under which a Roman mosaic was found
CREDIT: JAY WILLIAMS
When Luke Irwin discovered evidence of a palatial second century Roman villa in his quiet corner of Wiltshire, he wasn’t prepared for the world’s reaction. The chance nature of the find in his back garden, which was exposed last February when a stretch of vividly coloured mosaic was uncovered during wiring work, certainly made for an attention-grabbing story.
But what was less predictable was the speed at which it spread around the world after he went public with the news in April this year. Within a couple of days, the internet was agog with debate (“What are ancient Roman luxury villas going for nowadays?”) and Irwin’s video about the discovery and excavation of the site – previously a sheep field – had been watched by thousands of people. Things became truly surreal when Fox News introduced the villa to America as “the opulent home of a Roman-era 'Kardashian’ family”.
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