There is only so much time and everything has to happen in the right order. It ended with two 12 hour days. Although, Chedworth at 7 in the morning with the sound of birdsong for company is rather nice. Chedworth at 12 with the bubbling atmosphere of enthusiasm and excitement is rather nice too.
The turfs are back in place and our hard-won walls are hidden again but what we take away (apart from pleasant memories) are the photos, the plans and sections, the context sheets and the finds and the site diary. These we will use to weave the story of the site from the evidence and arrive at somewhere as close to the truth as possible.
After excavation there is careful cleaning. The site shines for the record photographs and then there is the final drawing of all the revealed detail. Tiptoeing across the archaeology in bare feet to keep it clean. The drawing took time and as each drawing was completed the site disappeared under soil.
The last turfs were put in place ..and we assembled in the villa courtyard. Nancy presented awards to Hannah, George, Harry, Harriet, Lizzie and Anna. Gifts were exchanged. Mark took away two bottles of wine which was fitting given his heroic concrete demolition. The remains of the giant chocolate final tea break cake were claimed for Birmingham student base camp.
So what can we say? That Sir Ian Richmond excavated two early baths. In 1958, a hot bath with a semi-circular apse and in 1963 a rectangular one on the east side of it. That autumn, he marked them both with concrete kerbs and paving to interpret them to the public.. much to the annoyance of the National Trust managers. ‘this laying of concrete-which looks for all the world like a series of concrete paths – is in my view hideous’
Well….50 years on they have gone. The depth and solidity of their construction was quite a challenge.
We now have photographs of the walls and have excavated the islands of archaeology Professor Richmond left behind. Frustratingly we found no coins and very little pottery to date the buried baths. It seems likely they were built in the 2nd century and perhaps the finds analysis will support this. We have a fragment of stratified samian pottery and some other fragments that the specialists might identify. We found a charcoal deposit above the bath floor and will get it radiocarbon dated (C14 is not a particularly accurate dating technique for the Roman period but it will help).
These baths were demolished (perhaps in the 4th century) and a new set of baths were constructed on a hypocaust 1.5m above and covering the north side of the remains of the old ones. To the south, a row of stone blocks 0.2m deep and 0.6m wide were placed on a rubble stone foundation to take a row of columns framing the new baths.
Between the new baths and this wall, a rubble surface was laid across the old baths which included the painted plaster fragments we found. Over this was a thin layer of dark soil and then a mortar floor. A surface for 4th century Romans to walk along and look out through the columns to the inner courtyard.
Our excavation south of the wall demonstrated that this was an area outside the villa building. We dug down a metre and found a drain and layers of gravel and dark soil with clay tiles and pottery forming the make-up levels for the courtyard.
The excavations demonstrated that the flight of steps and the walls defining the south and west edges of the site were all Victorian or later in date.
We have some things to ponder for next year. At the east end of the old baths, holes started to appear and as we cleaned, a large void opened up over 0.3m deep. Nancy lowered a camera and photographed a cavity with dressed stone. In this part of the site we found our earliest stratified archaeology and the foundation trench of the old baths.
Next August we will investigate further and hopefully get a better idea of how Chedworth began.
Many thanks to everyone both for their help and enthusiasm over the last couple of weeks.
This has been a fascinating adventure to follow from afar. Thanks for all the photos, information and everyone’s hard work!
It’s good to know you are enjoying the blog Shelagh from far away. Have you visited this part of the world ?