AN 'internationally significant' Roman mosaic discovered in Dorset has been saved from exportation and will remain in the county after £150,000 was raised to save it.

The mosaic, which dates back to the 4th Century AD, was discovered in the grounds of a Roman villa in Dewlish, near Dorchester, in 1974.

The piece, which shows a leopard attacking an antelope, was sold for £28,000 by the owner of Dewlish House at auction in 2018 and the fragment was subsequently sold to an overseas buyer.

A campaign was launched to save the mosaic which prompted the government to place an export ban on the piece which was extended until January 2021 when Dorset County Museum made an 11th hour bid to save it.

The purchase of the piece by the museum was made possible due to almost 100 donations from supporters, including a £50,000 donation from the Arts Council England and V&A Purchase Grant Fund, and a £40,000 donation from the Art Fund.

This acquisition reunites the new panel with two other fragments from the same mosaic which are already cared for by Dorset County Museum.

Dr Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum, said: "I'm delighted that through a true collaborative effort between Dorset County Museum, the export licensing team at Arts Council England, a wide range of funding bodies, archaeological organisations, and the local community, we have been able to save the Dewlish Mosaic for the nation, and for the people of Dorset.

"It's been a privilege to work alongside all these people on this most vital acquisition. I'm delighted that, once cleaned and conserved, it will take pride of place within the restored historic stairwell at Dorset Museum, alongside the other internationally significant Roman mosaics that are already in our collection in Dorchester."

Dr Clare Randall, archaeologist and vice chairman of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, said: "We are delighted to be able to retain the leopard and antelope mosaic from Dewlish villa within the area from which it originated.

"The mosaic is not only beautiful, and one of the finest examples of figure work from Roman Britain, but it is part of the story of the Dewlish villa and its inhabitants.

"There were people living in Roman Dorset with wealth, connections and exquisite artistic taste, and it is objects like this that give us a chance to glimpse their lives."