Day 0

James, Andy, Hayley and Elliot arrived yesterday and spent their first full day in Somerset preparing for the weeks ahead.

After a trip to the shops to pick up our (ample) food and supplies, James and Andy scouted out the site.

Field Rations

Above: James and a wheelbarrow of shopping.

Meanwhile, Elliot and Hayley organised base camp and made preparations for the arrival of our first team of students.

Henry arrived first, followed by Holly (veteran of last season), Imogen, Antonia, James S, James I (lots of James’ this year!), Dan and Chris. Having set their tents up everyone enjoyed a delicious barbeque and settled in for a team briefing.


The van has arrived

Andy reports that the minibus has been delivered. A day early, but that’s better than a day late. Even better it appears to be complete with four wheels, brakes and a steering wheel! We’ll be loading it up tomorrow.

James is busy packing and deciding how many socks to take.

All of a sudden it all seems very real.

BAR14: A Blast from the Past

Way back in 2014 (seems like it was ages ago) we investigated the deserted medieval settlement of Barrow in Odcombe.

The digging at Barrow is long finished but the analysis of the finds is still ongoing. Rather excitingly we’ve just received the pottery report from Berni Seddon at PCA. We found 600 sherds of pottery weighing about 4.5kg. Most of the pottery dates from around AD1175-1300. The big pit in Trench A that Lucy excavated contained pottery dated to AD1250-1300.

This is all interesting stuff and will help us to complete the report we’re writing on the excavations.


Lucy with some thirteenth-century pottery from her pit in Trench A




Congratulations to all the Lufton veterans who graduated on Monday.

James H, James St-A, Kimberley, Flora, Elliott, Hayley and Jess all did exceptionally well and have their eyes on the future.

Some of the team  are heading to jobs or postgraduate courses in archaeology, others are heading off in new directions. Except for Elliott and Hayley both of whom have four weeks digging in Somerset ahead of them!

Squatting in the ruins?

In AD407 the British usurper Constantine III made a bid for the imperial throne. He was unsuccessful and in the years that followed Britain slipped from the Roman Empire.

Some forty years later the Britons wrote to Aetius ‘thrice consul’ (AD446) and magister militum per Gallias (Master of the Soldiers in Gaul) and begged him for help against the barbarians. That help was not forthcoming and Britain went on to undergo its long transformation into the patchwork of early medieval Anglo-Saxon and Welsh kingdoms.

One of the things the project is really interested in is what happened to the Lufton Villa at the end of its life? Hayward found evidence that he thought was left by ‘squatters’. This included a rather nice iron working hearth built over a mosaic in Room 2. We hope to reinvestigate this hearth to see if it still survives and whether we can detect any clues as to its date and purpose.

Metalworking hearth Lufton

The late or early post-Roman iron working hearth from Lufton (from the original report in Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society)

If you’re interested in the end of Roman Britain, you might like to read James’ book The Ruin of Roman Britain which is available to preorder in paperback from the Cambridge University Press for £21.99

A good and simple plan

In just over two weeks we’ll be heading down to begin our longest and most important excavation. For all of August we’ll be digging the villa!

We’ve got a team of students and local volunteers who are all really excited to take part in what will prove to be a fascinating four weeks’ digging.

In Newcastle there are lots of preparations afoot. Andy has been hiring fencing, James is busy organising all sorts of things and looking forward to seeing the third years (including Lufton veterans) graduating on Monday.

This year we intend to dig two trenches. These are to precisely locate where the villa is and assess its state of preservation. We also hope to use new scientific techniques to study the final, so-called squatting phases of activity.

Just to whet your appetites here’s the plan of the villa showing where we propose to locate our trenches.

Proposed trenches

A month away

We’re about a month away from the start of our biggest and best excavation yet. Running for the first four weeks of August we’ll be excavating the villa!

This will be our fifth season and the biggest Newcastle excavation team (running in two two week shifts) we’ve ever taken to Somerset.

We’re pretty excited and the logistics behind this excavation are pretty impressive. A 10,000 word project design, permission from Historic England, new pieces of equipment, fencing, portaloos and the rest have all be ordered.

We can’t wait!