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!

IMG_1924

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 13 We Need to Talk About Room 27

We need to talk about Room 27 …..but first the biscuits at morning tea break.

IMG_4788

Milk chocolate hob nobs, digestive biscuits (McVities of course) and Oreo thins. Not sure where they came from but I think Fay had something to do with it.. and tea brought to us on a tray under the gazebo during our regular 11am rendezvous. The conversation slid from regional accents..to the Orkneys… to Stockholm and then fragmented into things generally Scandinavian …before we turned back to the trenches.

IMG_7683

Jenny and Fay were moving back along the east wall of Room 28 where sections of tessellation are emerging from beneath the Victorian topsoil. Nearby I spent a bit of time uncovering the stone-kerbed hearth, one of three (Dark Age?) that had helped destroy the central pattern of the mosaic. This one is made of crushed reused Roman box flue-tiles and is difficult to clean.

IMG_7679

Alexander and Nick had the quiet trench, away from the visitors, tucked behind Rooms 25 and 26. The modern overburden is all but gone and the underlying rubble contains largely Roman material apart from a stray fragment of tobacco pipe stem….perhaps brought down through a stray vole hole. An earlier foundation of Room 25 is emerging. Nick found a nice chunk of samian base.

IMG_7673

Jill and Les have now defined both sides of the boundary wall.. up-slope on the north side of the villa. Large chunks of bone and Roman pottery were being found …..when Peter called me over.

Now Room 27 seemed to have been sorted out in the first few days of the dig.

In trench 5c, in the north-east corner of the room, there was the remnant of a pink cement floor founded on a limestone and mortar hardstanding. The partition wall with Room 28 was a late Roman insert abutting the north wall which was earlier. Both cut the natural rock 10-15cm below the surface.

Peter’s south-east trench 5d was therefore a formality.  Check out one or two shallow features cut into the hardstanding …otherwise the pattern would be the same…peel back the thin yellow mortary mix and there would be the natural limestone and clay just a few centimetres beneath.

It doesn’t want to be found.. two weeks in and the archaeology refuses to be bottomed. Deep stripes of stratified Roman deposits slope towards the south wall which is broad, nicely constructed and now 4 thick courses deep. There are some good rim sherds of pottery down there.

That’s not why Peter called me over.

IMG_7685He had found a fragment of glass.

glass

A high class find. Never seen anything like that before.

What else lies beneath Room 27.. and… what is this deep space that is being uncovered.

 

Trench 5n…Chedworth’s Boundary Wall

I leave the cottage early and travel 10 minutes through the Cotswold countryside to the villa. It all seems so luxuriously well kept. Hedges and walls and distant rolling views across the harvesting wheat fields.

The partridge and pheasants crowd the narrow road just past the perfect creamy stone Yanworth.. and in the stubble field off to the right 2 tall hares with black tipped ears remind me of the triclinium mosaic in the West Range.

IMG_7594

So park, unload the bucket of tape measures, the drawing boards and the mounting number of context sheets, bulging in the bright yellow lever arch file.

Time to mark out a new trench on the terrace above the North Range. This will be 5n. Lovely view from up here. I look down onto trench 5m, where Rob has discovered the neat, stone capped drain. I am looking for the boundary of the villa and a possible Roman path-way running beside it.

Triangulate the right angles and string out a 3m by 2m trench across the supposed line of the wall. I discover that it can be felt beneath the grass.

Everyone arrives and the turf is gone by tea break. Carol cries ‘clear up your loose! and we congregate in the shade under the gazebo. Our talk is of empires and invasions or to be more modern .. of pc peaceful coexistence and the generous exchange of ideas and land (after all we’re all farmers at heart).

IMG_7626

Then back to the soil and John has found large lumps of tegula (evidence of roof collapse) and Rob has discovered shale… The boundary is large and chunky and continues, easily traceable, in a previously unsuspected way, along the valley slope parallel with the villa.

IMG_7624

Peter has found another extraordinary course of faced Roman wall in his Room 27 trench. He has resigned himself to the reality that trench 5d will be his life from now on ..and the Roman stratigraphy will never stop. There are regular pottery updates but nothing definitely 2nd century and no coins.. though these are required.

IMG_7647

I stay late to draw the floor of Room 28 but assure the friendly Italian family that we have the digi tech people to do it properly. They will scan it next Wednesday… All must be pristine and ready by then. The turf is almost gone.

IMG_7623