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.

 

 

Saturday

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

 

Extension!

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.

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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.

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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.

A guest post from Naomi

Third year student Naomi has been busy sorting our soil samples as part of a Careers Service work experience bursary. She’s kindly written a few words on the work she’s been doing and we hope to post a few pictures in the coming days too!

‘Over the last few weeks the soil samples have almost all been sorted and, although a slow process, are turning up large quantities of interesting finds. In particular two small glass beads from the 4th-5th century which were found in the soil sample from the context over the tessellated pavement. Another small glass bead also turned up in the last sample sieved. There has also been large quantities of CBM, ceramics, including Black-burnished ware, shell and bone. The bones range from chicken neck bones and fish bones to rodent bones. The sieving has also brought up a number of iron objects, mostly nails, as well as a number of the samples including eggshell. The samples should all be done in the next week or so and will hopefully include even more interesting finds that will add to the understanding of the site.’ ┬áNaomi, BA Archaeology Stage 3

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Chicken necks and fishbones

The large number of environmental samples from last season have all been wet sieved and the residues (essentially bags of gravel with tiny bits of bone, shell, seeds and artefacts in) are back in Newcastle.

Naomi, who is working for the project at the moment, is currently tasked with sorting the interesting stuff from the gravel. She started yesterday and in the very first sample we identified fishbones and also tiny bones from a chicken’s neck.

We’ll post some more updates as work progresses.

 

Roman floors over at Castles & Coprolites

Back in the summer we took lots of samples through some of the deposits that Hayley and here team were excavating in the corridor opposite Room 2.

One of these samples was a small box of sediment contained in a kubiena tin. Essentially this allows us to take a block of deposit from which we can produce a thin-section. This can then be studied scientifically as a micromorphology sample.

Newcastle’s very own expert in archaeological soils – Dr Lisa-Marie Shillito – has kindly been examining our micromorphology sample. Her preliminary observations are available over on her blog Castle and Coprolites.

micromorph

Post-ex: the never ending process

There’s quite a lot going on at the moment.

First of all Andy and James are working hard to put a project design together for this season’s work, We’re asking Historic England for permission to reinvestigate the villa’s bath block. We’d hoped to do this in the 2016 season, but resources didn’t permit. Watch this space for further developments.

In other news various bits of post-excavation analysis are progressing. GeoFlo are just about finished processing last season’s soil samples (greatly helped by James’s production of a stratigraphic matrix for the site). Once the samples have been processed they’ll be heading up to Newcastle for sorting.

Naomi (a third year undergraduate) is working for the project and part of her role will be to sort the sample residues. Until then she’s been busy doing some data entry, quantifying tesserae and doing other bits and pieces.

Mark Hoyle, a fantastic archaeological illustrator, has also been busy drawing some of our finds. Many of these are from our 2014 excavations of the deserted medieval settlement of Barrow (in Odcombe). We’re especially pleased with his drawing of the seal matrix. We hope to submit our report on these excavations for publication in the near future.

Medeival Seal Matrix from Barrow

Medeival Seal Matrix from Barrow

He’s also drawn a few finds from the villa. These include the hairpin James found on the tessellated pavement.

Late Roman  hairpin from the villa

Late Roman hairpin from the villa

 

 

 

New signage down at the Villa!

We’re pleased to announce that the vandalised sign about the villa has now been replaced! Many visitors to site last year commented on the fact that the sign had been knocked over and there was a lot of will from the council and the landowners to see a new sign put up.

This has happened and James was asked to refresh the text, The new sign includes some words on the recent excavations and even a link to this blog!

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Thanks go to Nigel, who braved Storm Doris today to take a picture of the sign.

In other news post-ex work continues apace. Andy is busying digitising plans, James has got the matrix sorted and samples are being processed!

 

 

 

 

All I want is pottery for Christmas

For the second year running James has spent the run up to Christmas quantifying pottery from a Roman villa excavation. At least this year it’s been pottery from his own excavation!

We found 521 sherds of pottery last summer. Over 80% of this assemblage came from the Black Burnished kilns around Poole Harbour in Dorset. This is a bit higher than Hayward’s statistics (he reckoned that 61% of his assemblage was BB1). James is still excited about the burnt sherd from a Type 18 bowl.

Most of the rest of the pottery came from the New Forest (producer of some very nice purple drinking vessels) and Oxfordshire (red-slipped tablewares). There were a few local grey ware sherds, perhaps from kilns around Ilchester and, in keeping with the late Roman date of the site, virtually no inter-provincial imports. A single sherd of samian of Hadrianic to Antonine date must be residual and a single fragment of Baetican amphora might be from one of the late forms current in the third century. This suggests that the inhabitants of the villa might have had some access to olive oil.

In many respects the assemblage is typical of late Roman groups from sites in the West Country. Bradley Hill, Catsgore, Ilchester and the like all produce similar patterns. This suggest that Lufton was connected into the exchange networks that were current during the fourth century and was participating in the local economy.

Of course, what we really need is more pottery from securely stratified groups. Most of our finds come from the robbing and demolition of the building and this doesn’t help us as much as the finds from a nice Roman rubbish dump would!

Some of the pottery will be drawn in the New Year and we’ll try and post some pictures when we have them.

Until then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, We hope you have more than a parcel of broken pottery under your tree on the 25th!