Day 10 – Wow!

Two full digging days left, another hot day, the press coming and lots of roman specialist visiting to see what we have found. Our wonderful volunteers put their heads down and delivered the goods.

In the sticky clay trench next to the Nymphaeum Les and Peter carried on uncovering the water pipes, the lead one looks very Victorian rather than roman and seems to be diving deeper than the iron ones. No sign of any roman culverts yet.

Les and Peter managing to work through the sticky clay, the lead pipe is the nearest pipe curving downwards

Les and Peter managing to work through the sticky clay, the lead pipe is the nearest pipe curving downwards

Harry swapped place with Carol and carried on finding a rough wall in the trench behind the north bath house. This trench is nearly finished as it has provided some answers to the questions that dictated its position.

Harry happy with is work

Harry happy with is work

Moving past the north bath house trench, saving the best till last🙂 we find the mosaic trench opened up yesterday. Carol has experience digging the mosaics so was put in charge of revealing a lot more, and checking the wall that joins the cross passage corridor. Jeannette and Mike joined her on the quest and as you can see found the white and red border just like we found in  the opposite  corner a few years ago.

Jeannette uncovering the second red band

Jeannette uncovering the second red band

Its great to share the joy of archaeology and we were very happy to provide a little digging experience for one of our regular visitors Mike

It’s great to share the joy of archaeology and we were very happy to provide a little digging experience for one of our regular visitors Mike. Great job Mike

Oh! the next trench behind the buttress under the Buckeye tree again provided a wow!  Kerry and Jackie were tasked with removing the dark layer in this trench, Martin had already removed this at one end and found a cut line, were one side is lighter and more yellow than the other. He found some pottery including part of a mortarium- for grinding ingredients for cooking. This trench had already produced the large roman coin and  now produced a very small roman coin! Kerry did a great job spotting this small minim especially with martin watching!

Kerry in the white hat just after her find. Jackie and Kerry being very careful to check their spoil before it goes in the bucket

Kerry in the white hat just after her find. Jackie and Kerry being very careful to check their spoil before it goes in the bucket

The coin –  dates to the 270s on fist look, we had three roman coin specialist on site today, including one who was a visitor from the Netherlands. It’s so small the picture is a bit blurry and I could not hold the camera still enough.

The coin - the spiky crown is know as a radiate

The coin – the spiky crown is known as a radiate

Now back to the bath house trench were the guys have been working hard in the hot conditions to get to the bottom of the rubble and plaster, to find if there is a floor from the earlier 2nd century room. Rob found a large iron object which looks like a wall tie of some kind but when lifted it appears to be more interesting but we will have to get it x-rayed to see its original shape.

Rob's iron object

Rob’s iron object

Last but not least ….Fay had been working for a few days digging past a large stone that would not budge and was in the way. She had found a few large building stones already and thought this would be the same. But it soon showed it was out of the ordinary as she removed more of the rubble layer. I think the pictures say it all but just in case here is what every one exclaimed WOW!!

A view from above

A view from above

A side view of the piece of column

A side view of the piece of column

The last full digging day looms and as the law of archaeology proclaims everything is found on the last day…………..

Day 8 and 9 – Plaster, plaster everywhere and some iron and mosaic!

Due to technical difficulties it’s a bumper edition of the blog🙂 Day 8 turned into a day of recording, with walls and sections to draw in some of the smaller trenches and the other trenches that are still being dug, had a lovely clean up for photos. Not a lot of fresh digging was done and that that was involved more plaster and ‘little cubes of loveliness’ aka tesserae.

Lovely colourful wall plaster

Lovely colourful wall plaster

Day 9 was an early start as some filming was being done for a documentary about the National Trust. We also had a small section of turf to start lifting to see if there was any mosaic under the turf next to the main north range corridor. We started with a couple of turfs being removed to see what depth the hoped for mosaic was at. Hurray it was there, large whitish and smaller white tesserae of the border of the main entrance room. It did not survive across the whole piece we did but hopefully we will have time to check a larger area.

The small area of mosaic next to the fresh hold stones of the north range corridor

The small area of mosaic next to the threshold stones of the north range corridor

In the north bath house trench loose tesserae hindered the digging, we ended the day with three seed trays piled high with them. The painted wall plaster is still being found, but with no time to check each piece we are waiting for our finds cleaners to have the eureka! moment when they clean of the mud and a face or animal stares back.

A lump of mortar with the ghost lines of the tesserae that have fallen off and lie in the hole it came from

A lump of mortar with the ghost lines of the tesserae that have fallen off and lie in the hole it came from

We have had our first metal objects from the bath house trench a couple if T shaped and L shaped nails/brackets, there are also very small fragments of probable knife blades as well.

L shaped iron object 'a very fine example of its type' as we say when not very sure of what it is!

L shaped iron object ‘a very fine example of its type’ as we say when not very sure of what it is!

More metal was found in the Nymphaeum in the form of water pipes, there were three next to each other, two iron ones and a lead one. Sadly all look to be 20th century. But tomorrow the guys in the trench will be digging around and down to find if the original roman culvert is under these pipes.

Harry cleaning the pipes so we can record them

Harry cleaning the pipes so we can record them

Carol has been slogging away often on her own in the trench below the Nymphaeum one, just behind the wall of the bath house. She has been looking for walls and may have a new one to record. Her best find today was part of an iImbrex which is the curved tile that sat on the join between tegula, the large clay tiles of the roof.

Carol happy with her large piece of imbrex

Carol happy with her large piece of imbrex

We had a treat for lunch, Sue the historic en-actor set up her roman kitchen and we were able to sample her roman creations from bread salad to sweet toast and something with the fish sauce they fermented called garum all very tasty🙂

Sue and her yummy tempations

Sue and her yummy temptations

Tune in tomorrow to see if we finally find the floor in the north bath house ….

 

 

 

 

Day 7 – Plaster paradise

Hurray! the sky is blue and a shiny ball is warming the earth, rain hats stay in the bag as sun lotion is applied.  Now. once again the eyes are on the bath house trench and everyone squeezes in the get a taste of the amazing painted wall  plaster feast.

Rob, Fay and Allan trying to dig down but held up by numerous lumps of plaster and loose tesserae

Rob, Fay and Allan trying to dig down but held up by numerous lumps of painted wall plaster and loose tesserae

 

What's in the tray? Painted plaster they cry

What’s in the tray? Painted plaster they cry

A small sample of painted wall plaster

A small sample of painted wall plaster

New possible scenes and designs are being dug up with each scrape, many different colours including greens that maybe trees and bushes. Then Fay finds a piece with a nail hole, it still has the rusty stain of the nail! Was it for a laying out line for a new painting or for building work of some kind? Or ……..?

The possible rural scene

The possible rural scene

The nail hole!

The nail hole!

close-up of the nail hole

close-up of the nail hole

After filling three large finds bags with single loose tesserae, Rob uncovered a large piece of mosaic in the last half hour of the day.

Robs Mosaic

Rob’s Mosaic

We must not forget Pat who has helped with post excavation work on the finds today, everyone is getting joy from the painted plaster and the warmth of the sun.

Lovely Pat cleaning the plaster

Lovely Pat cleaning the plaster

Day Six – Saturday sunshine and showers

After such a wet day yesterday, we were hoping that the site would dry out so some trenches could be cleaned up and recorded. As the day progressed it became clear that this was not an option for all!

Fay testing the mud to see of its workable, conclusion time for coffee!

Fay testing the mud to see of its workable, conclusion – time for coffee!

Thankfully the north bath house trench was dry enough to work in so all spare hands were moved to this trench and the top two behind the bath house.

Fay in the dry even the waterproofs are removed

Fay in the dry even the waterproofs are removed

We managed to get some work done between the showers. Lots more plaster is appearing in larger and larger chunks, I think I have underestimated how many boxes we need to transport it for post excavation work when we finish, I may need to hire a large truck!

Day 5 The 4 Trenches and a day of moisture

I’m back in Warminster this evening so we have internet connection for the blog.

Our nice dry site became very wet today but we pressed on and made some good discoveries.

So from east to west.

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

Trench 4a: The north end of the East Gallery where it abuts the North Range. What is this corridor between 2 walls for? Was there ever a doorway into the North Range corridor from here? Is the disabled access route through the west wall into the courtyard original? What is the big thick wall against the North Range for?

Well, we’ve found that the original gallery floor level has gone. Below the soil containing 20th century coins was a worn hardcore layer of limestone which once supported the Roman floor.

Looking north-east showing the two walls of the East Gallery butting onto the higher North Range reception room (we will uncover the mosaic, if it is still there, under the turf top left next week). The probable doorway into the courtyard bottom left. Mortar floor cut by foundation trenches bottom left. Thick buttress wall top tight.

Looking north-east showing the two walls of the East Gallery butting onto the higher North Range reception room (we will uncover the mosaic, if it is still there, under the turf top left next week). The probable doorway into the courtyard bottom left. Mortar floor cut by foundation trenches bottom left. Thick buttress wall top tight.

No evidence of a door into the North Range and the threshold in the west wall to the courtyard is lost but there was probably an entrance there. The foundation trenches for the walls were excavated and the mortar floor between them is cut through by them and is therefore earlier. Any finds in the mortar floor or below it will pre-date the gallery and North Range wall

The thick wall in the east East Gallery wall is deeply rooted on a clay and mortar foundation and we think that it is a sturdy buttress to brace the North Range from downslope movement at a weak point where a wide doorway led from the great reception hall into the private apartments.

The east side of the buttress looking south west. Where the coin and carved stone fragment were found.

The east side of the buttress looking south west. Where the coin and carved stone fragment were found.

Sue excavated on the east side of the buttress where the early 4th century coin was found yesterday and discovered painted plaster and a carved fragment of stone column.

Room 21 Trench 3b/c: We have joined up the two trenches we had last year along the eastern edge of the changing room for the North Baths. We are now back into the 4th century time vault of the backfilled hypocaust. This afternoon Rob and Julian found additional pieces of the painted plaster jigsaw to link up with last year’s finds. This room is part of the early bath house room leading to the 2nd century tepid and hot baths which we part excavated in 2013.

Latest painted plaster finds from trench 3c this evening.

Latest painted plaster finds from trench 3c this evening.

The blocked doorway from the grand reception room is gradually being revealed.

Trench 4c: In Carol and Seb’s trench on the west side of the North Baths we are looking for steps down from the West Range into the North Range colonnade and steps down into the boiler room and fuel store which created the steam baths of the earlier bath house. We are still on backfilled Roman and later rubble with no trace of steps so far. The walls of the boiler room have been refaced and repaired in the 20th century and this helped to hide the evidence.

Investigating the south wall of the boiler room in 4c

Investigating the south wall of the boiler room in 4c

Trench 4d: The last trench is right at the water source in the north west corner of the villa site. Alex and John have been working in the wet clay there today. We are looking for the link between the North Range and the water shrine or Nymphaeum. A concrete path, one of the interpretation features of the 1960s put in by Sir Ian Richmond, seems to be built on clay rather than a Roman wall but at the end of the day Alex found a black soil layer under the clay. The Nymphaeum structure seem to be mostly Victorian on the east side but today we found the Roman stone under the 1860s stonework… but following a different angle.

The Nymphaeum north east wall showing the Roman stonework under the 1860s reconstruction.

The Nymphaeum north east wall showing the Roman stonework under the 1860s reconstruction.

We are hoping to find the main drain feeding the baths in this trench but it looks unpromising at the moment.

What will tomorrow bring? Wind and rain according to Holly on the local news.

Day Four – So it begins …..

We are well and truly into the roman layers today, in the cross passage trench Tony found the original roman foundation trenches for the walls. They show up as darker strips of brown/black  soil against the yellowish surface.

The original wall foundation trenches are in front of Tony and to his right

The original wall foundation trenches are in front of Tony at the bottom of the photo just above the wall and to his right

In the bath house trench the painted plaster is appearing in large dumps, when cleaned of it is mainly painted white with some red stripes and some yellow patches. This is the top of a very deep layer of plaster. We hope to find lower down more designs and patterns.

Rob and Tony cleaning down to reveal the plaster

Rob and Tony cleaning down to reveal the plaster

The plaster cleaned and ready to be lifted so we can find more underneath!

The plaster cleaned and ready to be lifted so we can find more underneath!

More from underneath the white with red stripe pieace

More from underneath the white with red stripe piece

The small unassuming trench next to the cross passage trench but over the wall, produced the exciting find of a coin and this time a roman one! Jan and John found a large oyster shell and when they picked it up Jan spotted a green round thing – the coin.

Word spread, and crowds gathered as the coin reveled its Emperor in his full bearded  glory!

Jan with her coin, red peg marks the spot

Jan with her coin, red peg marks the spot

Roger a volunteer and coin expert had a look and gave us this identification –

‘Galerius 305-311AD co-emperor with Diocletian and Maximianus, its minted in London and is a reform ‘Follis’ on the reverse is Genius’

The obverse of coin

The obverse of coin

The reverse of the coin

The reverse of the coin

Rain is forecast for the fifth day so it waterproofs out and an expectation of getting very muddy!

Day 3 – It’s from where?

The day started with a surprise and it was yet another coin, this time from the trench next to the Nymphaeum. There is a tradition of throwing coins into the pool and we think that this Nigerian coin from 1976 may have landed over the wall as it was thrown too enthusiastically. I wonder who it belonged to and what they thought of the villa, had someone brought it back from a trip to Nigeria or was it a visitor from Nigeria, what stories can we weave about its journey to Chedworth.

The Nigerian coin

The Nigerian coin

The reverse of the Nigerian coin

The reverse of the Nigerian coin

News from the other trenches is that the roman levels are appearing and we are finally leaving recent times behind us.

Megan was joined in her trench by Max who had an amazing knowledge of history and told us many things we never knew about roman times. Thank you Max you did a great job🙂

Max digging next to Megan

Max digging next to Megan

In the bath house trench Carol and Rob began to take of the degraded opus signinum – roman crushed tile floor surface, under this will be the painted plaster layers. Fingers crossed for new patterns and designs watch this space🙂

Carol in last years trench with the red opus signinum in the foreground

Carol in last years trench with the red opus signinum in the foreground