In that rollicking era of Indiana Jones archeology in the 1930s, the Worcester Art Museum partnered with Princeton, Harvard, and the Louvre to dig up the ancient Roman trading city of Antioch in what is now Turkey. The museum scored big in 1936, shipping home a sixth-century mosaic weighing some 12,500 pounds, unearthed from the floor of a Roman villa that was destroyed in a 526 earthquake. The institution calls it "the largest floor mosaic brought to America."

The 20-foot-square limestone-and-marble design depicts men in tunics fighting lions, bears, boars, deer, and leopards in a free-for-all — a pastime of the ancient one percent. It's all action and blood between stately fruit trees. A lioness pounces on a fallen swordsman only to be speared by a caped horseman. A desperate tiger and her two cubs chase a grinning rider waving a third striped cub in his hand. A lion crumples from a hunter's arrow.

On view in the museum's Renaissance Court for seven decades, the Worcester Hunt Mosaic remains one of the most complete and dramatic examples of its kind in the Americas — a testament to the moxie that used to define the museum and the city. It should be a landmark. But around Boston it's almost like secret knowledge. Spread the word.


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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Archaeology, arts features
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