About James

I'm the Project Director and a Lecturer in Roman Archaeology at Newcastle University

Extending the extension

On Sunday we took the decision to extend our extension. This is on the assumption that the wall we have in the SW corner of our trench is one of the buttresses supporting northern wall of the bath house. Dan, James I and Chris laboured hard to open this new extension. The downside is we are now excavating the entirety to the area allowed to us under by Historic England.

In other developments Meg and James P spent the day drawing the rubble spread.

We were visited in the afternoon by Dr Kevin Hayward of Reading University and also Prof Roger Leech of Southampton University.




As we only have a two week season this year we’ve decided to have a short weekend. Today (Saturday) has been our day off. This has turned out to be a good decision as the heaviest rain of the excavation has fallen today.

Most of the team (older and wiser heads excepted) braved Yeovil’s nightlife yesterday with a trip to Club Neo. Much fun was had and this led to a few of the team rising late today. We’ve generally spent the day relaxing and taking it easy.

Club Neo

We are no closer to discovering where the bath house might be. It doesn’t appear to be in our trench! However, we do have some fascinating archaeology and tomorrow we’ll be trying to clarify and record what we have uncovered so far.

One of our more interesting finds was photographed by Andy today. This is a sherd of BB1, which appears to have a ‘V’ stamped on it. This is a pre-firing mark and James is struggling to think of any parallels for it.

V sherd



Today was a funny kind of day. We started off by cleaning the rubble in the SE corner of the trench. This we hoped would turn into a wall, but it just seems to be a tip of demolition material sealing a roof collapse. There are oyster shells and pottery in this deposit. All suggestive of in situ unexcavated archaeological deposits.


We also took the decision to extend our trench by a further 2m x 2m. This is to see if we can expose more of the length of the confusing wall we found just in the SW corner of the trench. Dan, Chris, James I, Charlie and Antonia all had a hand in this extension.


Antonia and Anneta also started to draw some of the deposits.

It’s all quite perplexing at the moment. Ski found a couple of tiny late Roman coins and Andy found a flint, which predates the villa by a few millennia

We were also visited today by Prof Simon Esmonde-Cleary of Birmingham University and a specialist in the late Roman Empire.

Tonight’s dish was bacon and tomato pasta prepared by James P and Meg. It was delicious.

Walls and walls

Today started bright and early with the decision to remove the rubble from the western side of  the trench. Quite a lot of heavy digging ensued and we lifted a lot of rocks. Under these were a wall and what appears to be smashed roofing slates.


After lunch we removed the rubble from the eastern side of the trench. This revealed what appears  to be another wall on a different alignment.


What is puzzling us is that so far neither of these walls matches what we are expecting to find. Where is the octagonal bath? Perhaps tomorrow will reveal the bath to us but James and Andy both suspect that the trench may need to be extended.

We continue to find Roman pottery and animal bones.

Andy laid out our site grid and worked magic with the GPS. James showed Megan, James P and Anneta how to reduce levels.

We knocked off slightly early and went in search of a BBQ. Having bought one Dan and Chris, who spent the day working hard to tidy the campsite, then managed to put it together and light it. All good and, at the time of writing, the food is eagerly awaited by the team.


All quiet

We woke up early to hammering rain today. Assessing the heavens and the forecast James and Andy made the decision to rain the team off. The access to our site is quite tricky and made almost impassable in the rain. It seemed the sensible and safest option to not go to work today.

Things dried up in the afternoon, probably enough for us to get to back in the trench but there didn’t seem much point so the team enjoyed a relaxing day off. Meanwhile, Andy was working hard processing GPS data in GIS.

In the evening we enjoyed a fascinating and exotic addition to our camping menu: stir fry. This was new dietary horizon for the Lufton Project and was enjoyed by everyone.

Rubble, rubble everywhere

Day two on site started well. The weather was fine and we worked hard to remove a thick silty clay deposit from the northern part of the trench. This layer isn’t very old – it has post-medieval pottery in it and it’s very close to the surface.

The digging team worked really hard. There was lots of mattocking shoveling and quite a bit of troweling. Antonia, James I, Dan, Anetta, Charlie and Chris dug and dug and dug helped by Andy and James G. Ski, our volunteer detectorist (operating under permission from Historic England), added to the excitement. He found nine Roman coins to add to our growing collection of pottery and animal bones. If we’re in the right place this is all material missed by Hayward in the earlier excavations.

Under the thick layer we were digging off today is a great spread of rubble. Our next task is to record this rubble layer, then lift it to reveal what is below. Andy reckons it’ll be 30cm thick. If we’re in the right place there should be a bath and fish mosaic below. Time will tell….

Start of dig


First impressions

Our first proper day on site. We achieved a lot, removing the turf and topsoil. This has exposed a rubble spread and some other deposits that seem to be later than the rubble. We’re not entirely sure what’s going on yet… time will tell. We have had our first finds – a few sherds of pottery and a couple of fragments of animal bone (including a few cattle teeth). There’s plenty of Roman brick and tile and even a few tessera.


Everyone’s worked really hard and a great deal was achieved. Thanks go to Colin who ran our equipment to site in a trailer pulled by his tractor. Lots of thanks also to Andy who spent a lot of the day driving around Yeovil for various bits and piece and did sterling work putting the big army tent up.

We returned home to some delicious chicken wraps lovingly prepared by Dan and James I



The Team is Assembled

Sunday was spent with Andy and James running around Yeovil collecting bits of equipment from various places. A big shopping trip to Asda, a search for a gas regulator, the purchase of 0.5acres of pony paddock seed and other sundry items took up quite a lot of time.

They also spent a bit of time fruitlessly dodging showers and the odd lightning storm in an attempt to lay out the trench with the GPS.


Meanwhile back at camp Josh set himself to work cleaning various bits of cooking equipment and extracting digging kit from storage in Maggie and Colin’s stable.

Over the course of the day the various member of our team assembled. Aneta (stage 1) flew into Bristol from Poland in the early hours and joined us in the late morning. James P (Stage 1) joined us from Middlesborough in the afternoon along with Meg (Stage 1). Chris, Dan, James I and Antonia found their way to Lufton by car about 5pm. Min is very excited and so is Woofton, the dig mascot.

So we’re all here. Cheesy pasta has been consumed and the team has been briefed. Now for a bit of relaxation before it gets very real and exciting tomorrow!


D-DAY: Pathfinders

The advanced party has arrived. We were almost foxed by the new road layout but have safely arrived at the farm.

The journey was pretty straight forward. A few heavy rain showers but no problems with the traffic. At light speed (62mph) we left Newcastle at 8.40am and arrived into Lufton at 4.25pm.

Andy and Josh are putting up tents. Homemade wine has been promised by our generous neighbour Alan. We need to do a quick run for supplies tonight and grab some fish and chips to eat.

Tomorrow will see the arrival of the rest of the team.




Well, it’s the day before we leave. The van has arrived, the scanner is on a plane back from Turkey and will be collected from a service station near Durham tomorrow. All we need to do is load the van, drive several hundred miles, set up camp, dig a trench, find a bath, record it, fill it in and come home. And we’ve just two weeks to do it!

James has got his kit packed, but isn’t sure where his tin camping plate is? Did he leave it in Somerset last year? Andy is searching for and finding first aid kits.

We’re bound to forget something… but it’ll be alright on the night!