Thirty Fish

Today has been our penultimate day on site. Only two more sleeps until our return to Newcastle!


Not much digging happened today. It’s the end of the excavation, so most of the time was spent undertaking the last bits of vital recording. This included Charlie and Chris drawing a section (in mirror world and then the right way around) and Annetta and Antonia also drawing a section. James P and Meg undertook to draw a plan of the extension, James G and Josh were also drawing plans. Andy spent much of the day photographing the mosaic.


Lufton Mosaic

Andy’s picture of the mosaic. At the far left you can just make out the arcs of tessera that mark the nose of another fish…

It was also a day that saw quite a few visitors. In the morning, Michaela, an old school friend of James’s, came to see the mosaic with her daughter and niece. In the afternoon we were visited by half a dozen of our friends from SSARG, including Nigel and Liz who carried out the geophysics with James G back in 2009. Finally, we were visited by Pat Witts, author of A Mosaic Menagerie: creatures of land, sea and sky in Romano-British mosaics. She was thrilled to see our fish and even more excited to see that we had excavated part of ‘Panel C’. This part of the mosaic was poorly recorded in the previous excavations and it is apparent that not only does one of our fish have a turned head but just the tip of another survives. This expands the number of fish on the Lufton mosaic from 29 to 30! Not bad for two weeks in Somerset.


Pat Witts photographing the fish

Finally, it’s worth recording that back at base Josh found a four-leaf clover. May his (and our) luck continue!




A busy day and a pause

This post is being written from the farm on a stormy Wednesday. We’re rained off (again) – clearly the weather gods are restoring the balance for previous seasons when we had no rain at all.

Yesterday was a busy day in lots of ways.

James started early with a radio interview for BBC Somerset at 7.50am, he and Andy then did a run to Asda to pick up supplies for the end of the excavation. We started on site at 10am. Most of the day was involved in recording and excavating the deposits that lie outside of the building and between two of its buttresses.

The sequence between the buttresses is very interesting. When we first exposed the rubble in this area we weren’t sure whether it was backfill from Hayward’s excavation or in situ Roman deposits. What we have excavated is surely the latter. The uppermost layer was largely Yeovil Stone rubble of a small size. This is probably from the robing and collapse of the structure. Under this was a layer of smashed lias and also slate roofing tile. This shows that the building shed its roof before it collapsed or was demolished. The earliest deposit, below the roof tiles, contains a lot of Roman pottery and also animal bones. This seems to be rubbish dumped around the back of the bath house. Annetta, Charlie, Chris, James I and Josh all had a hand in excavating these deposits.


Roof collapse under excavation (above)


Roofing material (lias on the left), slate in the middle and tile on the right (Above)

Dan spent most of the day gently cleaning the mosaic with a sponge and water and Antonia was cleaning up the buttress. Andy enjoyed himself excavating the joint between the buttress and the robbed out external wall of the octagonal room.


Dan washing the floor

At 4pm we hosted our open evening, which was well attended (although not on the scale of last year’s crowd). The Yeovil Archaeological and Local History Society turned out in force and so did many members of the public (some of whom have been reading this blog). It was great to see such interest in our work by the local community.

At 7pm, tired from the day’s travails we packed up and headed to Palmer’s Fish and Chips where James bought the team (you guessed it!) fish and chips in celebration of his promotion to Senior Lecturer.




Fish Mosaic Discovered! (come and see it 4-7pm tonight)

We’ve done it!

Yesterday in the southern extension to the trench we uncovered part of the octagonal fish mosaic that ran around the bath house. This allows us to confirm that the walling we have discovered is one of the northern buttresses of the building.

It’s great to see the mosaic!


The open evening is 4pm to 7pm tonight. You can park here and there will be some of the team on hand to direct you along the footpath. You will find the villa at this point.



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.