AJN On the Cover
On a quiet countryside outside the town of Piazza Armerina in Central Sicily sits the ancient palace Villa Romana del Casale, dating back to the late 3rd and early 4th century CE. Buried in a mudslide and forgotten for 700 years, this large agricultural estate was once occupied by Rome's elite and today is one of Sicily's most popular tourist destinations. The reason is that it houses the world's largest and richest collection of Roman mosaics. In light of our focus on women's health this month, we chose to feature on our cover one of the most famous of these—the so-called “Bikini Girls.”
Found in what's called the “Chamber of the Ten Maidens” (Sala delle Dieci Ragazze), the set of 10 mosaics covering the floor depict athletic women running, weight lifting, discus throwing, and tossing a ball. One is crowned with a wreath of flowers and appears to be holding the palm of victory. The women are wearing clothing resembling present-day bikinis, hence the mosaic's nickname.
Excavations of the site, which began in 1929 and continued until 1960, unveiled some 50 rooms covered by the well-preserved polychrome mosaic floors. Believed to be the work of North African craftsmen, the mosaics depict mythology, sporting activities, and hunting and domestic scenes of the era.—Alison Bulman, senior editorial coordinator