Day 13 We Need to Talk About Room 27

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

 

 

Day 10 – Chedworth charm

The day started with mist raising over the fields and the rattling call of young Mistel thrush as we arrived at the Vila. The trenches were draped with numerous spiders webs dripping with droplets of water. As the sun warmed the site the lizards appeared dropping from the walls to grab a worm or insect disturbed by our troweling.

The next section of turf was lifted in room 28 as we headed for the centre of the room.

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Turf cutting

 

Fay went down a few more courses of wall to prove once and for all that the eastern end of the north range was extended.

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The wall coming in from the left is the end wall of the range , with the wall coming in from the right just butting against it. The stones are not inserted into the other one

 

Martin and Seb worked behind the wall to see if the hexagonal part of the room had been so in roman times or if the Victorians had made a best guess.

Martin recording the trench, drawing to scale the layers, wall and features

Back in room 28 – the mosaic room, the removal of the soil above hopefully mosaic was going apace, Tony, Ann, Carol and James worked steady and carefully having been briefed that there may just be small sections of mosaic.
But it was not mosaic they uncovered but another possible hearth!

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James, Tony and Ann cleaning back the soil

 

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The ‘hearth’ edged with old box flue tiles from the under floor heating system.

 

The white tag in the picture is marking where Ann found some roman glass 🙂

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Ann and her glass find

 

And finally it was not who stole all the pies but who stole all the kneeling pads! I am afraid it was me as I went back over the area around the first ‘hearth’ and was trying not to damage the surface already exposed.

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My kneeling pad path

 

Day 9 – There’s a hole in my trench….

Business as usual today, lots of lovely visitors, including quite a few who have been visiting us every year for the last five years.
Fay was banished to the kitchen trench to try to find out if the north range was built in one phase or stopped at the kitchen and was then extended later. By the end of the day she had found two courses of stone wall that do indeed point to the north range having been extended, oh! and a few animal bones as you would expect in a kitchen 🙂

A job well done Fay

We carried on taking away the middle grassy area in room 28 – the mosaic room, there are only  a few very small loose patches of mosaic under the turf – so far!

Ben cleaning the last of the intact mosaic

The two trenches behind the main back wall were a mixed bag, producing  some more glass, bone, a scaffold pole and some wooden posts! Robs trench next to the kitchen had a few animal runs and holes, there are Bank Voles at Chedworth but these look too deep, there are also a few moles, natural excavators mixing up our layers!

Robs holey trench

More wildlife to finish with a lovely shield bug

Day 8 – Hold that pose….

A very busy day at Chedworth, with lots of volunteers, numerous press photographers and journalists.

A lovely busy site

Photographers have to have a head for heights

It was also a day of layers and features, such as foundation trenches cut when the walls were built. We also have a square stone edged ‘feature’ that we need to investigate further o determine its use.

The stone edged ‘feature’ just appearing

Room 27 with different coulored layers, dark pits and possible post holes and yellow floors and walls

Max came back for the third year to dig, just for the day, which happened to be his birthday, we are very pleased he chose to come and dig with us rather than a trip to the museums in London 🙂

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We had a candle but only a biscuit – no time to sort out a cake!

Day 7 – Ten green bottles….

Today we cleaned away the top soil, the layer under the turf, in all the new trenches, there were numerous finds including some roman pottery, more iron nails, fragments of stone roof tile and glass but sadly not roman!

Rob cleaning back the trench in the lobby room

Fay with her find of the day – an aluminum tent pole!

To add to the wine glass in room 28 -the mosaic room – we have now found the bottles, or remains of bottles that held the liquor that filled the wine glass! It looks like they either flung the empty bottles over the walls or lined them up on the wall as shooting practice!

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Neck and lip of one of the bottles

 

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Allan with his find

 

Alex in the second trench to produce a bottle