Stroll Through the Villa of the Birds

Take a tour of an ancient Roman villa in Egypt.

By American Research Center In Egypt

In 1998, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) initiated a project to conserve, protect, and display the floor mosaics and architecture of this early Roman villa in Alexandria, Egypt.   

Kom el-Dikka

This villa is located in the residential area of a late Roman site called Kom el-Dikka. The site dates primarily from the 4th to 7th centuries CE and includes a sprawling public bathhouse, a gymnasium, auditoria, and a theater. 

This mosaic was discovered under the wall of a Byzantine building during the initial excavations.  

The intricate mosaics depict geometric designs, floral motifs, and a panther at the center.

The elaborate mosaic work of the room in the foreground suggest it was used as a bedroom, or cubiculum. The small room behind it was an annex to the bedroom and separated only by a thin screen wall.   

This colorful mosaic gives this building its name: Villa of the Birds. It depicts different bird species including a parrot, purple gallinule, teal duck, peacock, pigeon, and a quail (or partridge).   

The annex room is adorned with a simple black and white design.

This Mosaic was found at the nearby Roman theater. The text reads, "Welcome".   

Where's Dinner?

This room was the largest and used as the formal dining room, or triclinium. The entire floor was decorated with mosaics in a geometric design. This was one of the most public spaces of the house and a hungry visitor would have entered this room from the central courtyard.

Portions of the wall were reconstructed using limestone from nearby Helwan, part of greater Cairo, in traditional Roman techniques. Newly constructed walls were distinguished from the original to make it clear to visitors what areas were reconstructed.   

A roofed structure with glass walls was constructed to protect the brightly colored mosaics from being washed out by the sun. The wooden footbridge allows visitors to explore the villa without damaging the delicate mosaics.   

Credits: Story

The conservation of the Villa of the Birds was carried out from February 1998 to June 1999 financed by ARCE, funded by the  Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP), funded by the  United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Supplemental work including landscaping and construction of visitors’ roads was carried out by Polish Egyptian Preservation Mission sponsored jointly by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Polish Center of Archeology. Read more at arce.org

Story Created by Tessa Litecky, ARCE

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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