Day Seven – Old friends

Fay, Carol and Amy returned refreshed after a day off, to be greeted by a no go area as we had a drone flying over the site to record the mosaics and parch marks, pale areas in the grass due to the drought conditions were the grass is over a hard surface, like a wall or compacted area like a path way, the site looked fantastic on the monitor, we await the results.

Here’s a picture from the top of the wall, not as detailed as the drone 🙂

guilloche Knots and swastika blocks

We have only done the first clean back to reveal the mosaics, we still need to go back over them cleaning again and then wet sponge them, the colours and patterns will then stand out.

Today we were joined by a volunteer and friend Jen and Allan a colleague of many years. Also we had a visit from another friend Stefan and his Dad, and as he had done finds washing last time we met, we found a good bit for him to have a go at digging. Stefan in 2016 pot washing and two years later digging, great job Stefan.

Pictured above another great tile and pot washer was Stefan who hopefully will be back to do more

Stefan excavating mosaic with expert guidance from Amy and Jen

Over on the other side of the trench a cry from Carol turns all heads, she had found her first roman coin, a very small and worn one but there is a figure on the reverse so the coin experts will be able to tell us a date.

Carol and her coin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Six – Glass half full

After the excitement of the coin yesterday the six of us knuckled down to the tasks in hand. Rob headed back to his trench next to the Buckeye tree wondering if he would have another lucky day. Martin spent the first part of the day adding to his measured plan of the site. He took of his boots so he could tread carefully around the mosaic.

Martin working on his measured plan of the site note no boots just socks – respect the mosaic 🙂

As for the rest of us – well the mosaic may have disappeared on one side but it reappeared on the wall side! and carried on and on into the next panel.

Amy on the left, with Stephanie and Pete working on the mosaic on the right

Amy and Martin, found that the potential untouched roman layer with roof tile, bone, pot and shell had also run out and was replaced by a very fine sandy soil that was probably Victorian, Martin found a broken, black glass, faceted button of a typical late Victorian type on the edge of this layer. We had an exciting moment when Amy found mosaic in her area that looked as if it went under the roof tile layer, it was in very good condition. So after we record the spread of this layer we will remove it and fingers crossed we will find more!

Amy’s mosaic

Once again late in the day Rob calls me and heads over with something in his hand, he has found some vessel glass, what looks like part of the foot piece of a roman drinking vessel! Top trench and top volunteer (32 years working with us)

Rob with his glass

At the end of the day I had a headache so as Doctor Quintus was at the Villa I went to see if he could help, but after seeing his tools and what he suggested I though just a long drink of water was the best cure!

Some of the Doctors tools

 

The good Doctor

Last but not least Chris, Stephanie’s husband who could not join us digging due to harvesting, managed to get some time to become the ice cream man and  arrived with a bag of lollies to keep us going for the next few days! As he had done such a good deed I let him take over my bit as I had to help Martin do some levels, on the plans he had drawn and check on Rob. I think he was happy 🙂

Thanks Chris you can visit anytime

Chris, Stephanie and Pete doing a great job uncovering more mosaic

 

Day Three – Willing helpers

Today we were joined by Adele and Jenny, to carry on uncovering the reception room mosaic, still hopeful that it would keep going ………. more later

Martin, Carol and Jenny removing the parched turf

We were also joined by a team from our head office, Heelis in Swindon, who were having a team day volunteering at the property. Sadly we did not have enough room for them to have a go at excavating so they offered to help with other jobs we had. The main one was to remove the bark chippings on top of the back filled area we had excavated in 2014, ready to uncover next week.

Team A making a start

Some of the team helped finish clearing away todays tarmac 🙂

Tarmac team

A happy team

Half of the top team!

Thank you all the Heelis team, you made a big difference and it is very much appreciated.

Now back to the mosaics and the news is………. no they have run out in one section! We have found a cement edging put down probably in the later part of the 20th century, but we don’t have full records of what exactly was done in some areas. It looks like it is repair work where the path had worn away above the mosaic. But the good news is we have started to get it appearing again, so as the saying goes tomorrow is another day.

Next to the wall it has disappeared and Jenny in the foreground is down onto the base layer that the tesserae was laid onto

View of the reception mosaic looking south

 

 

Day One – Chedworth revisited

The sun beat down on the backs of the diggers, the Horse Flies bit, the insect repellant stung, joints creaked, but all was ok as we have mosaics! The first day of the dig and the mosaics are appearing from under the tarmac and turf.

The corridor and the reception room beyond

Some of the mosaic was covered by geotextile, as it had been excavated before, so we only needed to remove the soil on top and peel back the geotextile. At the threshold of the corridor we found the first section to uncover.

The geotextile with the impression of the tesserae that lay underneath

The reveal!

The side of the reception room, that abuts the threshold stones of the doorway to the corridor, has mosaic that is in good condition and the tesserae are large as it is the border of the room. Tesserae usually get smaller as the pattern gets more complicated in the centre of a room.

We had some tarmac to remove and found that like in other parts of the site where we lifted tarmac, it came in two layers. The older biscuit like, more stony tarmac is probably from the mid 20th century and the black, tar rich tarmac is from the 1980s.

The two types of tarmac the earlier one on the right

Tired, but happy we had managed to get started on such a hot day, we left the site ready for the new cohort of volunteers joining us tomorrow.

Mosaic on each side of the doorway between the corridor and reception room

ALERT – Return to Chedworth Villa – just one more time

This is the mosaic we will be revealing again and extending the dig to uncover the full 18m x 6m area of the reception room and part of the corridor beyond (the tarmac path in the background)

One week to go before we are back at Chedworth Villa for the final excavations around the North Range. We will be re visiting the 2014 excavations by uncovering the reception room mosaic and then working on the parts we left  unexcavated last time. The room measures 18m long by 6m wide and we hope more survives at the east end, so we will at last see the full extent of this very large room. We will be extending the trench down the north range corridor as well, and investigating a few more areas to hopefully answer a few questions while we have permission from Historic England.

Come along and see what else we find, we are excavating from the 9th July until the 27th July. Follow each day here on the blog and the property Facebook site . Hope to see you all soon 🙂

 

Sunset 8.15pm Chedworth 2017

So the 5 year North Range research agenda is complete.

Chedworth Roman Villa 1 cMike Calnan_ Naitonal Trust

Picture copyright Mike Calnan taken by mini-copter on Thursday. The North Range to the left with the green and blue gazebos in Room 27. You can just see our exterior trenches beyond the walls on the slope top left.

We had started backfilling on the previous day so it seemed unlikely that we would leave late for home on Friday.

Always the optimist. I had arrived at 7am to video the site amongst birdsong.

Carol crossed the corridor, climbed the bank and picked blackberries.

Fay squinted at the rising sun in the valley as I moved the pencil along the staff. Taking levels on the boundary wall.  ‘There’s a breathless hush in the close tonight’. The lull before the storm.
‘Ten to play and a match to win’

Nothing like a bit of imperialist poetry to steel one against the day but who would come to help us? So much recording to do…so many trenches to fill.

Then John kindly arrived despite his birthday, Nick and Nick and Alexander and Harry to join the rest of us stalwarts and we began the long day…

We loaded the last tools as the sun began to set and Amy remained with us until the end. Fabulous! Carol said that the last day on a dig was like childbirth… painful but worth going though again. We were so grateful to everyone for putting the site back together after all our exploration.

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Plan from an old guide book to show the numbers of the rooms in the north range 27-30. Our boundary wall and drain trenches were above 30.

What can be said.

On the north side, the boundary bank ran clear across the trench and was easily traced following the contour of the valley above the North Range. A heap of Roman debris lay over it and below the rubble a level stony area suggests a trackway though we did not fully excavate this.

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Detail of the Roman wall on the outside face of Room 30. This shows the time when the North Range had a new suite of rooms added to the east. The foundation trench for the old build is stony and has the ranging pole on it. That to the left more soily marked by the trowel. The courses above abutt except for one which cuts into the old build and ties the walls together.

Just below is Rob’s trench against the exterior wall of the kitchen. The beautifully placed 0.33m wide flagstones 0.3m from the wall face. We thought the stones covered a drain. We lifted one and the surface crumbled into hundreds of fragments. Below was only 0.1m of sand and charcoal above the natural clay.

The current story is that the stones were the firm foundation for a timber drain that was built along its surface. The wood had long rotted away but there are stories of iron linking rings being found here.  We still need to track down the source.

No doubt now about the later addition of the suite of rooms 30-32 onto the east end of the North Range. Both in Fay’s trench, within Room 30, and this trench, the abutting joints and change in foundation trench fills were clear.

Our two small trenches in the North Range Corridor showed that there was no mosaic left east of Room 26 but that the narrower and earlier corridor wall could be traced past Room 27. It was not found opposite Room 30 but the ground here has been badly disturbed. Sir Ian Richmond’s 1964 breeze block wall ran deep this far east.

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The two trenches in the north range. The one in the foreground had the stones of the narrower and earlier corridor in it.

Peter’s trench in Room 27 had now been backfilled and made  level with replaced turf….. but what had been the point of the deep dressed stone wall against the corridor. Was it an early pre-corridor wall. I am placing a lot of faith in comparative C14 dates from foundation trench fills. The fragments of charcoal have been helpfully plentiful in these but not an ideal dating tool …too crude really for Roman deposits.

We stopped for lunch and the discussions …over leaving cake …turned to mattocks. We admired the prize tool of the dig … the new yellow fibre-handled mattock which Nancy purchased specially. Mattocks are wonderful things… if deftly hefted. We told mattock stories……

We then faced Room 28. I moved forward with parallel tapes and ranging poles, drawing metre by metre and as each space was vacated, the terram, topsoil and turf followed.

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The topsoil and terram being placed.

The mosaic survived best in the north… though its gradual deterioration south documented its loss.. Down through the mortar bedding and limestone rubble hardcore. Even the hardcore disappeared in the room’s central zone… becoming a dark soil containing the two hearths and a foundation of rubble between areas of burning. These ragged remains are an exciting discovery. We need to search for comparisons and obtain radiocarbon dates from their organic deposits. I hope for a 5th-6th century date to reveal a time when the villa was still standing.. but had declined from a grand mansion house to a manufacturer’s workshop.

Chedworth Roman Villa 4 cMike Calnan_ National Trust

Copyright Mike Calnan photo of Room 28 on Thursday. Peter’s trench in Room 27 bottom left.

The last trench was Peter and Alexander’s, behind Rooms 25 and 26. Peter had been digging there until the afternoon to understand it better. The trench showed that 25 had been added on but it had once had a different broader plan. This earlier phase had  been part demolished before being rebuilt. The foundation trench along 25’s  north side was clear but to the east the natural bedrock had be dug away deeply and steeply. I jumped down onto a loose mortar surface and slid the trowel under the lowest course of the earliest phase of 25. This cutting continued north-east through the trench section into the slope of the hill. Perhaps a drain or earlier stoke hole… but time was up.

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The deep trench cutting natural and the wider foundation under Room 25. Room 26 is on the left. The cutting continues under the section line to the right.

Fay shouted out the levels from the slope and I joined the backfilling.

but the story is not over until the samples are analysed, we have made cross-comparisons and the reports are written. What of our painted glass.. the pottery, the charcoal and other finds?… we will see what they tell us.

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