Fieldwork… the project is back to work!

Liz from Geoflo at Lufton

After a long hiatus we’ve restarted some fieldwork at Lufton. Liz and Nigel from GeoFlo have been finishing the survey of the villa field. We first surveyed this way back in 2009 and never managed to survey right to the northern and western edges of the field. Over recent days Liz and Nigel have completed that survey, which is another job crossed off the list! James is anxiously awaiting their report.

Post-Excavation Assessment Finished!

At long last, here it is! 40,000 words of post-excavation assessment (PXA) on the villa excavations in 2016 and 2017. A PXA is an important technical document that outlines and assesses the discoveries we made during the excavation. It’s not a thrilling read, but it does lay out all of the evidence that we found. From this document we will write our final publication text that will draw all of our discoveries in the Lufton area together.

You can download a low resolution version of the PXA here

A delayed New Year update

Fig 7 W facing section TRB
The west facing section of the southern extension to LUF 17 Trench B

The blog has been quiet of late but work is carrying on behind the scenes. The last year or so and the pandemic has been difficult for everyone. It’s slowed archaeological research down. James did manage to give a paper on Lufton to Exeter University last year. It was, of course, a virtual paper given on MS Teams but it was well attended and a few locals from the Yeovil area even managed to join in, which was lovely to see.

James and Andy have also been working (dare they say it) on finalising the long over-due post-excavation assessment report. Both feel disappointed that the report hasn’t been completed yet but would beg our reader’s patience. It has been delayed by very challenging circumstances that have been beyond the control of both of us. We have been cracking on since the start of the year and we’re starting to see the fruits of our endeavours!

The section drawing above shows the limit of excavation in the southern extension of LUF17 Trench B. What is shows is the mosaic (1009) surrounding the plunge bath, Hayward’s trench investigating the robbed out wall of the bath house (1018) and layers of demolition collapse rubble (1003), (1005), (1010). It’s producing and interpreting this kind of evidence that makes archaeology such a complicated process.

The walls

Fig2 - the walls
The walls in Trenches A and B.

Progress has been slow but the drawings of the excavation for the post-ex assessment are coming together. Here you can see the walls we uncovered in Trenches A and B. The large Trench A encompasses the middle of the building. The new room formed by (110) and robbed walls (212) and (134/119) is clearly visible. Part of the bath house is exposed in Trench B.

These walls were drawn stone by stone by Newcastle University students. The exact positions of the walls were also plotted using GPS. They’re much wonkier than Hayward’s drawing would have us believe.

Lufton and Lockdown

It has been a while since we have posted an update on this blog. Work on the post-excavation assessment continues but is delayed by the serious illness of one of the project team.

There were plans to undertake some geophysical survey this year around the villa. Alas, the great Covid19 pandemic has stopped that work. It looks like we’ll be spending a year chained to our desks at least.

There were several major pandemics during the Roman period. The first was the so-called Antonine Plague of the late second century (AD165-180). This does seem to have reached Britain as there are inscriptions relating to it from Hadrian’s Wall.

There was also the Plague of Justinian, which occurred during the sixth-century (AD541-542). This is after the Roman period in Britain, but the Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, was still very much Roman. The Plague of Justinian may have spread to Britain, where it possibly killed Maelgwn of Gwynedd – a man traditionally associated with the Maglocunus of Gildas.

If you are seeking a socially-distanced walk in these uncertain times a wander out to the site of the villa is a good option. Always tick to the footpath and obey the country code!

The Summer of 2018?

A few people have got in touch with James asking whether we’ll be back digging this Summer. It’s great everyone’s so interested and keen on the project!

As we’ve been digging a Scheduled Ancient Monument for two years it seemed appropriate to take a break and analyse all of the finds we’ve made. At the moment we’re busy writing the post-excavation assessment, which is nearly complete.

We hope that we will be able to return to Lufton in the future. As ever, funding is the biggest issue. Watch this space…


A post-ex update: beads

The blog has been quiet for while. Fear not, work has been progressing on the post-excavation analysis of the finds. The soil samples from 2017 have all been sieved and the various tiny residues have been sent off to specialists for analysis.

Perhaps the most interesting discovery made in the sieving of the soil samples are a few tiny glass beads. These are lovely little objects that would have been worn as part of a necklace by a late Roman Lady.


James is currently on research leave, so is planning to crack on with writing the post-excavation assessments. He and Andy have a meeting on Monday to discuss the phasing and plans of the site.


So long and thanks for all the fish

Well, we spent the day doing the last bits of recording. This included a few final sections drawings, taking a couple of kubiena samples for soil micormorphology and undertaking a 3D scan of the remains with our Faro 3D scanner.

After lunch we backfilled the trench with the help of Colin and his big machine and spread enough grass seed to reseed our trench several times over.

The rest of the day has involved packing up camp, loading the van for journey north and also washing the van….

It’s been great. A real rollercoaster of an excavation compressed into a fortnight’s hard work. We cam, we dug, we filled it in and along the way found some fish, rubble and pottery. What’s not to love?

We hope you’ve enjoyed following the blog. Please keep checking in with us as the post-excavation work will begin in earnest and new discoveries will be made in the coming months.

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!