It’s nearly all over

It was the final day of work for everyone today before the final team head back home with just a few week before the university year begins again.

There was lots to do this morning. We started off by scanning the tessellated pavement with a Faro 3D laser scanner. This will allow an extremely accurate 3D computer model of the discovery to be made. Recording the pavement in this level of detail will allow other scholars to study the remains without the need to disturb them again.

Having scanned the pavement the next step was to backfill the sensitive areas of the site by hand. Pushing barrows of dirt over the painstakingly excavated hypocaust and tessellated floor was a strange experience but it will help to support and protect these parts of the site when we backfill by machine tomorrow.

One exciting last minute discovery was the realisation that a large ‘rock’ towards the northern end of Room 4 was actually a plano-convex lead ingot. This hefty item was lifted and will be taken back to Newcastle along with the other finds for study. Presumably it was manufactured when the building was demolished and robbed. All of the lead fittings will have gone into a crucible and been made into this leaden lump. Quite why it was left behind is a mystery…. and an avenue for future research.

This excitement over we got on with removing the fencing and creating a smaller enclosure around the trench in preparation. The hire company will be picking the fencing up tomorrow – here’s hoping they come nice and early.

Other jobs included striking the tent we use for a site office and getting all the tools and other kit back to base. An afternoon of sorting, packing and cleaning tools kept most of the team busy. Douglas (below) even got all the samples organised for their collection by GeoFlo tomorrow.


James G spent the evening checking paperwork and plans, which caused him at one moment to bless the invention of single context planning as a sneaking suspicion about one part of the site was confirmed by close analysis of the drawings. It was quite late by the time he was done and the team were, by this time, all lurking in the marquee clutching their purloined rubbers (or erasers for N American readers). By this time Andy had deserted us for the comfort of the Masons Arms.

Tomorrow will see the team depart to Newcastle and other parts of the country. Left behind will be James G, Andy, Elliot and Hayley who will oversee the backfilling of the trench and the final pack up of the camp. Ski will join us for one last time and hopefully find, as the spoil gets pushed back into the trench,  all the metal bits and pieces we missed.

The end is nigh and everyone’s thoughts are turning homeward.


The end is nigh!

Today was the final day of archaeology for this season’s excavation.  Although there are still some bits and bobs to do on site tomorrow, today marks the end of digging and recording for our 2016 season.

The day began with Elliot and James G finishing their work on the tessellated pavement.  After recording the final overlying layer, removing it and sampling it in its entirety, they were able to uncover the pavement as much as possible.  In the final layer on top of the pavement James G even found a completely intact Late Roman bone hair pin.  After it was uncovered, with some careful brush work and some excellent sponging methods, they were able to clean it up in preparation for its photo record.



Elsewhere in the trench, our top planning team of Lucy and Becca finished off their work for the season by finally recording the last of the walls.

Meanwhile, Matt, Frankie, Jeff, Freddie and Tom were occupied with the mammoth task of cleaning up the rest of the trench, ready for Andy to take a whole trench photo.


Hayley and Doug were able to take out the final layer of their burnt patch and sample it before Hayley and Elliot took on their supervisory roles and delegated the cleaning of the trench as much as possible.

The majority of the team were taken home while Andy, James G, Elliot and Hayley attempted to do some laser scanning of the trench.  Unfortunately due to rain they had to postpone playing with the expensive gadgets until tomorrow.

It’s the final day on site for most people tomorrow before backfilling on Friday.  Both our first and second teams are incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved over the last four weeks, seeing the trench completely cleaned up today hammered home how much their hard work has paid off.


Local media celebrities

It was a bit of a media circus on site today. The team were visited by Historic England, the county archaeologist, representatives from the Historic Environment Record as well as reporters from BBC Points West and the Western Gazette. The outcome of all this is that Historic England and County are very pleased and impressed with our work; BBC Points West did a great news story and the Daily Mail Online wrote a rather odd, not to mention inaccurate, piece about the project… still we were pleased to make the national press.

We also had a visit from Absolute Archaeology – who brought us wine and cheese! Thank you!

Elliot, Josh and James G spent most of the day working on the contexts overlying the tessellated pavement that was uncovered yesterday. They worked hard all day to record each individual layer on top of the pavement while also carefully uncovering more and more of the tesserae. While it was disappointing to find it’s just a plain grey pavement we were really impressed by its state of preservation. The slumping must indicate that the floor is subsiding into something beneath it – a hypocaust??


Meanwhile, Hayley continued to unpick the layers surrounding the burnt layer in the central eastern part of the trench along with Doug and Matt. They were rewarded by finding a late Roman coin (with Ski’s help) and some pottery.


Tom set off alone just behind Elliot and Josh working a burnt patch of his own, recording and excavating it in an attempt to understand its place in the wider picture of our trench.

Meanwhile, Jeff, Freddie and James B began the monumental task of cleaning the entire trench in preparation for a whole trench photo tomorrow.

Andy was working throughout the day with the Total Station and the GPS while also darting around site, taking record photos in between bouts of custard cream-related madness.

In other news, our crack recording team of Lucy and Becca continued to record walls as well as making further records of the apsidal room and its related hypocaust and flue channel.


The team returned hone to cheesy pasta prepared lovingly by Tilly and Frankie.

With only two days to go, the team are working hard to get as much done as possible before heading home this weekend.

A shiny floor!

It was a busy day on site today but the team managed to make a brilliant discovery of a tessellated floor. This pavement is in a room that occupies an area that Hayward had thought was outside of the villa entirely.

At the start of the day, James G was hoping to work off some of Josh’s excess energy by having him, Jeff, Frankie and Elliot hack out some of the overlying rubble deposits in the North East corner of the trench.

However, after a near miss with the mattock, Elliot struck some tesserae. These quickly grew into what was clearly a full paved floor. The pavement is suffering from some subsidence but otherwise appears at the moment to be a plain grey floor.


Elsewhere in the trench, Hayley, Doug and James B worked hard to record and take off the clay layer which was overlying the burnt deposit on the east side of the trench. They topped the day off by taking a micromorphology sample from their deposit and cleaning up the surrounding contexts.

Becca and Lucy continued their adventures in archaeological recording by planning walls and contexts for the whole day while Freddie cleaned up the loose over the walls and Tilly worked on the water pipe channel in the Southern end of the trench.


The team are all very excited about their new discovery and are looking forward to finishing their work in Lufton soon.

Sunday Fun-day

Yesterday was a busy day with about 400 visitors being shown around site and another 100 attending the evening talk. We were all pretty exhausted and shell shocked by the end. We were pleased to enjoy a lie in before working a half day in the afternoon.

In the morning Andy and James G bought supplies for the week and the team wolfed down some sandwiches before lunch and a productive afternoon of archaeology.

An old friend – Woofton – joined us in the afternoon. Woofton’s been a companion and mascot for the dig since 2014 and he enjoyed sunning himself in the hypocaust!


Lucy and Becca were tasked with drawing a huge plan of the apsidal room, its joining hypocaust room and the connecting stoke hole channel.


While that was going on, James G, Matt and Freddie discovered that what we thought were capstones of a water pipe in the south east corner of the trench turned out to be the south end of the water pipe channel.


Meanwhile, Doug, James B and Tom were working on the burnt patch that Hayward identified as a squatter hearth. After Josh, Tilly, Jeff and Frankie had finished their work in Room 4 they came as back up to help Doug and co clean up their context for Andy to photograph it.


Elliot spent the day working all over the trench doing bits of recording and helping out the rest of the team. Hayley was tasked with taking out the rubble from the wall on the back of Room 2, revealing another water pipe channel.


At the end of the day, the team ordered pizzas for tea. Andy, James G and Elliot went to collect the leaning tower of pizza and brought back the team’s rations.

We’re entering the final week of excavation tomorrow – it’s the last stretch of work for the team and we need to make every minute on site count!

Archaeology on tap

Today the whole team were on site working hard while James and Andy were providing guided tours of the site for our open day.

The whole team would like to thank everyone who visited for their generosity and interest. We all really enjoyed talking to you all and estimate that around 400 people came down to see us!

We’ve had fish and chips and now we’re off to see James G give his talk at Abbey Manor Community Centre.

The team are looking forward to a lie in tomorrow before going on to the last week of excavation!

Ditches, holes and rain

Today most of the team were rained off and it was up to James G, Andy, Elliot, Hayley and Pete to work on site.

At the start of the day, Elliot and Hayley were tasked with drawing the southern limit of excavation in its entirety. After entering the mirror world and accidentally drawing it backwards they managed to rectify it.

Meanwhile Andy was struggling with the GPS and the Total Station which both thought they were still in Greece!

While everyone else was working hard, James G and Pete started excavating a hypocausted room connected to the apsidal room in the north end of the trench.

At lunch time, the van was struck with tragedy as it found its back wheel in a ditch. After several (unsuccessful) attempts at problem solving, the team had to ask the landowner, James Pullen to pull the van out of a ditch with his tractor. James saved the day and pulled the van out of the hole to allow us to continue our work.


James G, Elliot and Pete continued to work hard all afternoon until Doug arrived with Hayley and Andy to provide some back up for the end of the day.

After Jeff decided to over salt the chilli, the team went to the Airfield Tavern for their tea.

The team are all looking forward to the open day tomorrow and continuing the excavation!

Ham(stone) sandwiches

At the start of the day, Elliot and Doug were tasked with cleaning up what Elliot began working on yesterday – an unexcavated room in the Northern end of the trench.

After cleaning up the feature, Andy took some photographs and Doug was reassigned with working through the trench, filling out various masonry context sheets for the rest of the day.


Meanwhile, Andy led his team of Jeff, Freddie, Becca, Frankie and Matt in diving deeper into Room 4.  Although the team worked hard, they failed to turn up any mosaics in the room. Indeed, it would appear that any mosaics here are long gone. Removed by the excavations of the 1950s and 1960s.


Hayley, meanwhile worked with Lucy to continue to excavate their oven on the East side of the trench, before moving on to more mosaic hunting in the South-East corner of the trench (again to no avail). They did, however, identify the line of the stone channel for the waterpipe.

James G, Elliot and Pete returned to their room to peel back the newly recorded context…


… to reveal some exciting archaeology.  They discovered a channel bordered by two giant burnt hamstones, which may have been used as a stoke hole for the heated flooring of the villa.



At the end of the day, the team returned home to see that James B had been working hard processing finds, as Josh prepared our tea of Spaghetti Bolognese.



Working hard and shifting muck

The team were working extremely hard today, and managed to move an awful lot of ground to make some good archaeological progress.


The day kicked off with Hayley and Lucy returning to their Roman oven.  After identifying the edges of the feature and thoroughly cleaning it, Andy was able to snap some photos of it before Hayley and Lucy drew it and took some levels.


Meanwhile, the majority of the team were occupied with the northern and central sections of the trench.  James G led Josh, Frankie, Freddie, Pete and Sue in attempting to resolve the stratigraphic relationships between the rooms in the northern section of the villa, and the hitherto unrecorded apsidal room.  While the rest of the team were working hard, mattocking and shovelling, Elliot was working hard to identify the edges of what may turn out to be another hypocaust room.


In the centre of the trench, Andy led Matt, Jeff, James and Tilly in attempting to find out whether Hayward had left any in situ deposits in Room 4.  Despite their best efforts, it doesn’t seem to be the case, but Andy and Tilly managed to discover an almost complete pot in the ground!


After a quick paddle in our new paddling pool, the team enjoyed a meal of corned beef hash prepared by Becca and Doug.

Paddling with the Romans

Today was another scorcher on site but our team battled through the heat and sun to do some great work!

The day kicked off with Elliot and Tom finishing off Elliot’s work from yesterday, cleaning up the robber trench before recording it and taking some levels.

Meanwhile, Matt, Jeff, James, Becca and Pete were working with Andy to remove the top layer clay from Room 4, revealing the sandy, mortar-filled context beneath (and also finding some great pottery sherds along the way!)


Hayley was working with Lucy today, investigating what could perhaps be a Roman oven – skillfully identifying colour change around the cut feature.


This ‘oven’ feature produced an interesting sherd of burnt BB! yesterday (below)


On the north side of the trench, James G took charge of Josh, Freddie, Tom and Sue in trying to see where the heated apsidal room leads and found another wall of the villa wall in the process.


At the end of the day the team were incredibly surprised to see that Maggie had bought us all a paddling pool to help us cool off at the end of a hot day’s work – thanks again to Maggie for the gift!

The team all enjoyed a dinner of fajitas prepared by Tilly and Frankie before settling in for the evening.