About national trust archaeology sw

I work for the National Trust as an archaeologist across the south west region. I look after the archaeological collections and run events and assist the two lead archaeologists with excavations etc

The glass find – first thoughts

The glass when first found

Now we have recovered from the digging and back filling of the trenches at Chedworth Roman Villa, we can start on the post excavation work and find out more about what we found. The star find this year was a small fragment of glass that Pete found in room 27. Having contacted the main specialist on roman glass and sent lots of photographs, an e-mail returned asking for a very detailed description of where it was found, as they had not seen anything exactly like it before in Britain. They needed to see it in the flesh and as luck would have it we were both attending the Roman Finds Groups conference so I took it along. After looking at it from all angles the verdict was that it needed to be shared wider, to roman glass specialists, roman archaeologists and roman finds people beyond Britain. The only possible comparable piece Jennifer had ever seen was from near Iran! The post excavation work is like excavating again, in that you never know what you will find out about the objects you have found, discovering the story never ends. Once again Chedworth villa produces something unusual, watch this space for more updates on this wonderful fragment of glass.

The lovely colourful glass

Day 18 and 19 – So long, farewell … and so to bed

Day  18 – the last chance to investigate those areas and layers that just need a little bit more excavation to glean the last drop of information from the site before recovering it with soil and turf.

A little bit more digging  in Robs drain trench, to look for any iron rings that may have been used to connect wooden pipes that the large stones may have been protecting.

We also sectioned part of the ‘hearth’ to see if we could recover any charcoal for dating, find any clues to its use  and also to see how it was constructed.

Part of the ‘hearth’ sectioned, under the tile was ashy soil and then more box flue tile

From the other ‘hearth we have taken a sample of the very burnt and fractured quern stone, we can then find out what stone it is and were it has come from.

Ashy soil can be seen in the section on the right

Day 19 – Today the back-breaking back filling of the trenches is going a pace with many called in to help, even an odd hour is very much appreciated.

Alex, John and Nick covering the boundary wall trench first with the breathable geo-textile then the soil that was taken out goes back in

We put down a breathable geo-textile on top of were we stop excavating, this stops plant roots but allows water through and is great if we do uncover it again as we can dig down to the cloth and then peel back to were we stopped last time.

Pete’s deep trench and Martins complicated wall phasing trench in room 27 all back filled

We put a bottle, from our celebration when we finished yesterday, with various objects in it, as well as a message to the future in the deepest part of Pete’s trench were the glass had been found. A kind of closing ritual we usually do when back filling trenches.

Our message to the future, the fizzy wine bottle with messages and coins and other objects inside it

Hopefully we will not have to stay into the evening to finish the ‘putting to bed’ of the site, a very heart-felt thank you to all who have helped us this year with special mention to the back filling crew Fay, Carol, Amy, Pete, Harry, Alex, Nick and Nick, John and John.

Farewell until the next dig, were ever that may be……………..

Some of the core team Harry, John, Martin, Fay. Amy. me, Carol and Pete

Day 17 – Rain, a long pole and a party

We were all up and out early as the laser scanner folk were due before 8am and we also had a lot of trenches to finish digging, with three days to go.

As well as scanning the guys took high-resolution photographs

The rain had made all the colours zing across the site, showing the contrast in the soil with areas of burning showing up red. But it was also frustrating as we could not get to work, as the rain made the site difficult to work on and the layers we would be digging would not be easy dig. The mantra is ‘if it’s raining and the site will suffer by working on it  (layers of soil sticking to boots and depositing the soil and finds on another part of the site) you don’t work, but if the site will not suffer you go out in the rain!’

Ready for the rain

Once the rain stopped, Rob headed for his possible drain, it was time to lift the lid, we all gathered round with thoughts of a lovely stone lined drain with just enough sludgy soil to hold all the goodies, rings that slipped of bathers fingers or glass oil jars. The stone came up, it was beautifully tooled on the underside, but no sign of stone sides of a drain. He troweled back underneath but only found more of the layer either side of the stones!

So what is/was it, it maybe the bottom of a stone drain missing its sides and top, or could it relate to what was found in an earlier excavation about twenty years ago a bit further down the north range.  They found what they thought to be iron rings that would have held wooden pipes, did they sit on the stone? The stones are very well worked, a lot of effort has gone into shaping them so probably not? its  yet another puzzle to ponder over the next few months.

Rob lifted the stone from his possible drain behind the wall of the kitchen

the tooling under the stone

We ended the day with a gathering of staff and property volunteers for a tour of the site and talk about what we have found, this was followed by a ‘bring a plate’ buffet and drinks to toast our efforts and carry on conversations about the villa. Thank you everyone for a lovely evening.

A good turn out for Martins talk and tour

Day 16 – at last, the last of the turf…

A long day of cleaning and topsoil removal in room 28. As the misty rain began we hardly noticed, as all heads were down digging. Rosie, Jackie, Charlotte  joined us for the last push ahead of the laser scanning guys due at 8am tomorrow.

Charlotte and Amy finding the last of the mosaic

Rosie (in pink)cleaning of the dark topsoil to reveal a stony area

Jackie drew the short straw and had to clean of the sand put down by he excavators 17 years ago

Jackie, Amy and Carol worked to clean off the yellow sand, put on top of the mosaic seventeen years ago, it sticks to the stone and is hard to clean. By the end of the day it had gone from looking like the picture above to what you can see below!

The beautiful cleaned mosaic

And finally……

Gingerbread decoration competition

Day 15 – and there’s more…

Sunny and bright but a bit cooler today, as a gentle breeze blows across the site. Lots of new diggers of all levels of experience, and mainly very awkward areas to excavate. They were all eager for the challenge and after a site tour by Martin we set them to de-turf the last of room 28. Will we find surviving mosaic under this last section? The matted roots from the turf seem to be full of loose tesserae and is difficult to excavate if you have never dug mosaic before. But the girls did well Sarah-Jane who had experience digging started to find mosaic that was more secure and gradually exposed more and more! Hurray!

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Sarah-Jane happy revealing the remnant of mosaic

Phoebe and Sarah-Jane finding mosaic

As well as more mosaic we had more glass, but just plain this time and in the ‘second kitchen’ room found within a rough floor surface along with lots of bone.

A bone and the larger piece of glass

Carol spent the day in a corner all on her own not because she has been a bad digger but because she is an excellent mosaic cleaner 🙂

Carol in her corner

Day 14 – Wash and brush up

After a couple of days off I headed back to Chedworth very early. Through the misty vales of Dorset, then into Wiltshire with its hay bale monoliths, finally reaching the honey stone of the Cotswolds in record time, as all were still in their beds on this cool Sunday morn.

Blue sky and bright sun

As it was very dry we worked on cleaning and brushing up room 28, we also started to give it a hairy root trim ready for the laser scan on Wednesday.

A gentle trowel and brush up

We finally finished taking the Victorian back-fill from on top of the hearths.

The largest hearth cleaned up at last

The day was hot and dry so we could use brushes on the stony surfaces, but it took its toll on the workers, who packed up quickly at each break to get into the shade and get some fluids.

Charlotte and Amy resting aching backs in the shade

Charlotte finished working with us today and she gave me some wonderful flowers 🙂 thank you Charlotte you were ace x

Sunflowers on a sunny day

 

UPDATE – As I driving I was thinking about the finds from the previous days, I was eager to see the glass Pete had found. I was pondering the pin Andy found, it was an itch I needed to scratch, there was something not right about it, could it have been lost by a historical re-enactor!
They had used room 28 in the past for living history displays. When I reached the villa there was a living history tent, a roman trader, very fortuitous. Steve makes metal pins and had a look as he thought it could have been one he made! it wasn’t but he pointed to evidence that may show that my hunch could be right. He knew the groups who had been at the villa many years ago and is going to ask if they ever lost a pin, he had a vague memory someone had mentioned a lost hair pin. Watch this space, we may find we can reunite the pin with its owner if it turns out to be a lost living history pin!

Day 11 – Curious finds

The sun broke through the threatening clouds to make a warm sunny start and spirits were high. Three new diggers arrived eager for the challenge of mosaic finding in room 28.

Andy, Jo and Gabe behind Amy in the white hat

Rob carried on in his trench behind the wall to see if the couple of firmly embedded stones he found the day before had turned into a wall or pathway, as the old archaeology saying goes ‘one stone’s a stone, two stones are a coincidence, three stones are a wall’

Rob’s couple of white stones poking through the soil just in front of him

After a mornings work this is what turned up!

The small stones turned into this! It looks like a drain rather than a wall

Meanwhile in room 28 a couple of metal finds popped out of the ground, the first found by Gabe is made of copper alloy, which always looks green after being buried in the ground. It does not look roman, could it be part of  a medieval buckle clasp or horse harness fitting?  there is some decoration but its hard to see what it is. The jury is out on this one until we can get it cleaned and check other similar finds from other sites.

Gabe very pleased with is find and rightly so, well spotted

Close-up of the decoration

With good keen diggers on site we were able to take the next section of turf off in room 28. It was while doing this that Andy found our other metal find – a large heavy pin.

Andy and his pin

The pin also does not immediately seem roman, but it could be, it was in the disturbed top soil which has Victorian finds in it, could it be a hat/cloak pin from that period? The surface ‘patination’ is odd, but the design and shape  fits with some roman pins. It’s another curious find that will have to wait for cleaning and the specialist to ponder.

What will today bring – hopefully more curious finds 🙂