….. it is now! – day 12

The Tawny Owl calls as the last shovelful of soil is thrown into the trench, we load up our tools and finds and head home exhausted but happy with the last two weeks excavations.

We have had some wonderful finds and have uncovered lots of new information about the life of the villa and the changes the owners made over time.

Martin found a series of floors in the plunge pool, trench F and also the drain opening.

The floors of the plunge pool

The floors of the plunge pool

 

The drain hole in the wall just left of centre

The hole for the drain, still full of soil, in the wall just left of centre

Scale drawing the sides (sections) of the trench

Scale drawing the sides (sections) of the trench

One volunteer we need to mention is John, who spent three days trying to get to a floor surface in trench A, he was nearly there by the end of the day. Martin needed to get in the trench to draw the wall and sections so John climbed out one last time and left for home.

John in trench A

John in trench A

While troweling the wall to see the stone more clearly Martin cleaned up the bottom of the trench and found a stone flagged surface! John had been so close to his goal!

The flagged floor

The flagged floor

The main group of volunteers worked tirelessly on shoveling all the soil back into the trenches, and re-laying the turf.

The plunge pool filling up - just not with water!

The plunge pool filling up – just not with water!

Lois taking a water break before re joining the guys back filling.

Lois taking a water break before re joining the guys back filling

Trench F in a few weeks the grass will recover and the ground will settle

Trench F. In a few weeks the grass will recover and the ground will settle

Time passed, each trench was lined with geo-textile and filled. Nathan and Lois had to leave by five, leaving the rest of time team who stayed until seven fuelled by ice-cream and cold drinks.

The end of the day group picture Back row : L to R Me (reflection in the window) Tony, Mike, Martin. Front row L to R Harry, Alex, Tony and Fay

The last trench backfill group picture. Back row : L to R, me (reflection in the window), Tony, Mike, Martin. Front row L to R, Harry, Alex, Tony and Fay

A big thankyou to all our lovely volunteers who helped over the two weeks, as ever we could not do this work without you. Rain, mud, and the odd day of baking sun did not deter you, your dedication, enthusiasm and joy reminds us of why we love archaeology.

 

They think its all over…… – day 11

So we reach the last full digging day, Martin is in and out the trenches digging here and there, gathering the information he needs to record, so he can tell the story of what we have found.

Martin finding the floor level in trench F the plunge pool

Martin finding the floor level in trench F, the plunge pool

Rob came back for a day all the way from Devon; he is our longest serving archaeological volunteer, 30 years next year! He proved once again to be a lucky charm, as he found some wonderful finds :-)

He worked in the trench with the tile pilae again and found the rest of Tony’s pot! Its black burnished ware made around Poole Harbor in Dorset, and the rim piece Tony found fits perfectly.

Nearly a half of a black burnished ware pot, it fits the rim section Tony found a few days ago

Nearly a half of a black burnished ware pot, it fits the rim section Tony found a few days ago

 

A happy Rob with his pot

A happy Rob with his pot

Rob didn’t stop there! He was asked to excavate a bit more from the next door trench, and after a short while he came and said he had found a little bit of something I may like. So up the wooden steps I went and suddenly saw this colourful patch in the soil. Wow! This trench has produced two Wows, it’s a painted plaster feast!

Spot the plaster, look to the left side

Spot the plaster, look to the left side

So we have another section of the overall pattern that decorated the walls.

Wow!

Wow!

A very good day, a shame it’s nearly the end of the dig..

There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow – day 10

A bright glow today among the wet stuff, and happy faces most of the time on the dig.

Our lovely little gazebo just before it blew away with a sudden, out of the blue, gust of wind!

Our lovely little gazebo just before it blew away with a sudden, out of the blue, gust of wind!

We welcomed Kerry today and set her to cleaning the layer off the top of the lovely stony surface in the apsidal room. Kerry you did a great job a real natural digger, hope to see you again, enjoy sixth form.

Kerry doing a splendid job

Kerry doing a splendid job

David was put in the plunge pool trench and was later joined by Kate and Harry as the task of finding the bottom became urgent.

David in the plunge pool trying to reach the bottom

David in the plunge pool trying to reach the bottom

A rose between ....... David, Kate and Harry

A rose between ……. David, Kate and Harry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was more painted plaster and some pottery, so hopefully we will get some good idea of the date it was filled in.

Meanwhile back in trench B and C in front of the bath house wondrous things were appearing. Tony found some black burnished pottery from Poole Harbor in Dorset. He had part of the rim which helps date the  pottery by looking at its form/shape, this piece is from the fourth century.

A very happy Tony with his pot

A very happy Tony with his pot

I was able to do a little bit of digging today and had just settled down to clear back an area in the apsidal room when I heard Alice from the other side of the wall say, ‘Nancy I think you will like what I have just found’……WOW!

Alice with the Wow!

Alice with the Wow!

IMG_1379

A closer look at the amazing painted plaster Alice found, what a great pattern and colours

Here as promised are a few of the pieces of painted plaster that Sue has cleaned. Remember the pink and red bit, as you will see in the blog tomorrow an even more amazing piece of plaster found on site today which is really tomorrow.

a very small selection of plaster from the boxes full we have dug up.

a very small selection of plaster from the boxes full we have dug up.

I now must just turn attention on to mosaics, while excavating trench B, that has the strange tile plinth thing in it, Martin found more tiles that turned into pilae! He also found bit of mosaic with a strange wide grout and a lime wash or coating on them.

The strange mosaic

The strange mosaic

There has been thought that it maybe wall mosaic, as it also seems to be bedded on mortar similar to the plaster. Right at the end of the day Martin pulled out a very large piece that will give us more of an idea as to the original design.

A lovely large piece of mosaic

A lovely large piece of mosaic

Keep watching this space as the last full digging day looms, who will reach the bottom in the plunge pool, will we find another floor in the bath house area, and will there be more wonderful finds……….

mud, mud glorious mud – day 9

Fay determined to sort out what is happening in Sir Ian Richmond's trench

Fay determined to sort out what is happening in Sir Ian Richmond’s trench

Well, our skin is getting lovely and soft due to the damp clay soil we are covering ourselves with at the moment. Not a clean knee in the house! Thankfully we did get chance to excavate deeper and find some lovely things……

Alex came back for more and was very glad she did, as she removed the broken up opus signinum floor she found two coins! One Victorian half penny and not very far away a 4th century Roman coin. The opus signinum was very worn in places and I am sure the Victorian coin was in one of these ware patches, hence it was from the same level as the Roman coin and also seemed to be under the roman floor!

A very happy Alex Roman coin in hand

A very happy Alex Roman coin in hand

A close up of Alex’s Roman coin

Martin had chance to excavate in trench B and was soon pulling out large chunks of painted plaster and even mosaic! all mixed in with rubble filling the area around what could be pilae. We had to get the big plastic boxes out to put it in!

Martin in trench B with Alex in trench C behind him

Martin in trench B with Alex in trench C behind him

Martins mosaic

Martins mosaic

Harry carried on taking away the fill of the probable early plunge pool/water feature and like Martin found a lot of painted plaster. Sue and Jan spent time cleaning some of the finds from day 9 on day 10, so tune in tomorrow for some more exciting finds and the painted plaster revealed in all its glory and a very interesting piece of mosaic :-)

A large fragment of painted plaster leaning upside down against the wall of the probable plunge pool

A large fragment of painted plaster leaning upside down against the wall of the probable plunge pool

Heroes Just for One Day…8

We are writing these blogs for what happened yesterday..so Nancy will tell you about today ..tomorrow. Very exciting, unlike today which was really yesterday.

The plunge pools shelter building beside room 21. A refuge from the rain

The plunge pools shelter building beside room 21. A refuge from the rain

A thoroughly soggy occasion. Rachel, Jo and Alexander joined us for the day and were amazing.. we managed to make progress despite the steady and often very heavy rain.

Alexander lowered the backfill within the 2nd century cold plunge/water feature.

Alexander lowered the backfill within the 2nd century cold plunge/water feature.

Alex took the plunge pool trench F down, which despite being filled with rubble and clay started to fulfil its original watery function and needed to be sponged out

Jo and Rachel worked in A and defined the wall and clay layer there

Jo revealing the wall in trench A

Jo revealing the wall in trench A

and Fay took the rubble layer in B down. Our clay and limestone feature is now several clay tile courses deep but the next layer awaits excavation. Great chunks of rubble and plaster were thrown as backfill to bury the structure c. 1600 years ago. Another clay structure is emerging.. a pila? Part of an infilled hypocaust?

We will find out tomorrow (today).

Trenches B and C Room 21. Icebergs of interesting building debris project from context (N360) ready for tomorrow..

Trenches B and C Room 21. Icebergs of interesting building debris project from context (N360) ready for tomorrow..

Day 7 – Monsoon season

A lovely quiet, dry start to Sunday, Alice, Fay and I were joined by Nick and Roz, full of hope for a few hours of dry digging!

Nick and Roz working in trench

Nick and Roz working in trench F

Fay moved from digging ‘Richmond’s’ 1960s trench back-fill up to trench B where Rob found the lovely worked bone and coins. Today could be an exciting one, as Fay began to remove more of the Roman layer.

More of the feature Rob found, the tiles are still going down

More of the feature Rob found. The tiles are still going down

Alice returned to trench C to try to find the steps associated with the doorway.

Alice in trench C

Alice in trench C

All was well, tea break was called with a shout of ‘clean up your loose’, Sue had come to do more finds washing for us, the coffee and hot chocolates arrived, then……. the heavens opened and down came rain so heavy it bounced a foot into the air! Too late to pull the covers over or rescue our bags, we just watched as the trenches filled with water.

As the rain started to ease, trench F in the for ground

As the rain started to ease, trench F in the foreground

Thank goodness for the little gazebo, Sue in the middle with the finds she is washing in front of her.

Thank goodness for the little gazebo, Sue in the middle with the finds she is washing in front of her. Is that a Roman lady on the right!

Some of the finds Sue washed, painted plaster on the left and a mixture of animal bone and tesserae on the right

Some of the finds Sue washed, painted plaster on the left and a mixture of animal bone and tesserae on the right

When we ventured back to the trenches, sponges at the ready, we found a mini plunge pool were Alice had so carefully cleaned some painted plaster she had found!

Alice bailing out her trench, one bucket full already.

Alice bailing out her trench, one bucket full already!

Alice did a wonderful job cleaning her trench and revealing the painted plaster again

Painted plaster

Painted plaster

Trench F, had become too slippery and sticky for Roz and Nick to work in, so I moved them up to the more sandy mortar trench A. They did a fantastic job in very testing circumstances, and managed to spot a lovely roof tile.

A very happy couple with the roof tile from trench A

A very happy couple with the roof tile from trench A

We managed to get quite a bit done even with the heavy showers. The team were dedicated and well prepared for the wet weather as you can see below :-)

Nick models what all best dressed archaeologist are wearing this season

Nick models what all best dressed archaeologists are wearing this season

 

Rob’s Structure, Two Coins and a Pin : day 6

A hot day, good for ice creams and sun loungers not for mattocking and shoveling the clay and building debris filling the cold plunge pool. Definite need for a time machine to use it properly.

The stone and tile structure in trench A

The stone and tile structure in trench A

Excitement up in trench B Room 24. Rob has cleared round a pile of rubble and revealed a small structure built against the wall with a central setting of limestone and edged with clay tiles. Some feature within the bath house. Not sure what yet. All may be revealed at a lower level. Rob then found a coin and beside it part of a bone pin. If that wasn’t enough he soon found a second coin and both dated to the 4th century (precise emperors and dates to follow). We have only found two other coins since starting work at the villa in 2010 and none from a good archaeological context until today.

Rob's second coin has the scale against it. Find spots for the first coin and the bone pin are marked by labels top left.

Rob’s second coin has the scale against it. Find spots for the first coin and the bone pin are marked by labels top left.

Marie and Lois came to help today and excavated in the apse of Room 24.

Marie and Lois took off the last archaeological layer in E to reveal the underlying limestone and clay geology which the wall sits on.

Marie and Lois took off the last archaeological layer in E to reveal the underlying limestone and clay geology which the wall sits on.

Nancy has found a hardstanding remnant for a 2nd century wall below the clay

Nancy removing clay to reveal the 2nd century robbed wall footing in D. Fay is revealing more early walls under Sir Ian Richmond's 1963 concrete.

Nancy removing clay to reveal the 2nd century robbed wall footing in D. Fay is revealing more early walls under Sir Ian Richmond’s 1963 concrete.

and Fay has revealed more of the early villa in trench D below Richmond’s concrete. Interesting to see now that one hypocaust flue was blocked and replaced by another about 1800 years ago. We’re getting a much better understanding of what lies beneath Sir Ian’s 1963 concrete.

Fay's 2nd century walls in D. The wall in the centre blocks and replaces a hypocaust flue. The flue walls burnt red with the heat.

Fay’s 2nd century walls in D. The wall in the centre blocks and replaces a hypocaust flue. The flue walls burnt red with the heat.

Back in the 4th century baths changing room, Room 24, Alice found some painted plaster against the wall in trench C and this is similar to some found by Rob along the wall to the north in B. It would be quite something to find an intact decorated wall at a lower level…

At the end of the day Lois dug a bit more of trench A and found large blocks of structural stone beneath the sand.

At the end of the day Lois dug a bit more of trench A and found large blocks of structural stone beneath the sand.

Lois transferred to Luke’s trench A at the end of the day and began to reveal some structural stone along its northern edge.. not sure what this is yet.