2016 yr 4 Chedworth Villa 7am

 

The last two were 12 hr days but late summer Chedworth at 7am is lovely.

Walking past the Victorian Lodge with tapes and drawing boards. Look right down the valley towards the new day. The mist still hiding the lower fields and hedgerows.. and around the excavations the spoil heaps steaming in the rising low sunlight, burning off last night’s showers.

Pull back the tarpaulins and capture the moment. Birdsong and video.

What information do we have now? What has been gathered from our two weeks of labour?

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

Map of the west end of the North Range showing the trench locations

The disabled access ramp was dismantled to give us sight of the north end of the East Gallery. Our trench 4a.. which is really four adjacent trenches.

Carol completed the removal of turf from the SE corner of the great reception hall. The NE corner we saw in 2013 (good condition). The NW corner (rubbish condition) and the SW (brilliant) corner we uncovered in 2014. So Carol’s SE corner (60% survives) confirmed that the striped red and white mosaic design bordered the whole 18m long floor and that although it had been lost against the south revetment wall, this loss had revealed a narrower North Range wall line beneath the mosaic.

The mosaic forming the SE corner of the reception hall and the top right the door threshold into the north corridor. Below this is the wider revetment wall of the north range. No doorway visible from the East Gallery but the offset wall at the bottom of the ranging pole is probably where the Roman floor used to be. The flagstones on the left abut the revetment wall and this is a later wall forming the west side of the gallery. On the right is the broad buttress wall which may have infilled an earlier doorway. Our deep interesting trench is on the right side of this.

The mosaic forming the SE corner of the reception hall and the top right the door threshold into the north corridor. Below this is the wider revetment wall of the north range. No doorway visible from the East Gallery but the offset wall at the bottom of the ranging pole is probably where the Roman floor used to be. The flagstones on the left abut the revetment wall and this is a later wall forming the west side of the gallery. On the right is the broad buttress wall which may have infilled an earlier doorway. Our deep interesting trench is on the right side of this.

Down below, at the north end of the East Gallery, we came down onto clay below the 1906 and 1911 pennies. No Roman floor survived. The offset stone course probably marked where the floor once had been… but it was long gone.

There was no entrance evidence at the north end of the East Gallery into the North Range. In fact the creation of the corridor or gallery seemed a very late Roman after thought..certainly later than the wider North Range revetment wall. This wall’s foundation cut that of the revetment…but, from the archaeological evidence, the doorway through the wall used by the modern disabled access ramp seemed a real Roman feature.

Then there was the thick buttress built into the east gallery wall. The east gallery wall foundations go down and down and this proved to be an early Chedworth feature. The buttress matches the width of the doorway in the west wall and it was Bryn who suggested that the buttress filled an early doorway. A weak point that needed filling in.

It was the trench on the lower east side of the buttress which was interesting. It’s near cousins to the west had been a little disappointing..

Samian in charcoal amongst mortar and painted plaster at the base of the buttress.

Samian in charcoal amongst mortar and painted plaster at the base of the buttress.

Once the modern upper soils had been removed, we hit the AD 295-305 coin and then the 3rd – 4th century mortaria rim and then the tiny late 3rd century coin. Eventually the rich dark soils turned rusty brown and then into an orange brown decayed mortar full of tile fragments and pieces of deep blue and red painted plaster. Against the revetment wall, this mortar ran under its lowest course and beneath a large square paviour of limestone wedged between the buttress and the wall.

On the last morning I cleaned back the mortar layer and found a seam of charcoal within it and a fresh square of samian pottery was flicked out by the trowel point. This boundary between the upper and lower Chedworth courtyard levels seems to have been established by the 2nd century?

Needs some more work next year.

Then there is Fay and Rob’s trench in Room 21. An extraordinary slice through time. A sealed 1600 year old heap of stuff (including a door key! as well as all the decorative plaster). The stacks of tile pilae protruding like broken teeth from the debis. They lie in ordered lines but survive at different levels. The idea that the blocked doorway from the east once led via steps up to the floor above the hypocaust… doesn’t seem to work based on the level of the pilae.

The two lines of pilae on the east side of room 21. The blocked door is top right. The burnt plaster lines the wall along the left side of the photo. A broken channel of box flue tiles was attached to this wall. Part of the later heating system.

The two lines of pilae on the east side of room 21. The blocked door is top right. The burnt plaster lines the wall along the left side of the photo. A broken channel of box flue tiles was attached to this wall. Part of the later heating system.

The door seems already to have been redundant and blocked before the hypocaust was installed. Red plaster surviving on the door jamb and burnt plaster within the room at hypocaust level suggest a room at a lower level swept away for the new heating system which in turn was backfilled and sealed with a new Roman crushed brick floor later in the 4th century. The mid 4th century coins just below this floor help us with our dating.

The foundations of the east wall of this room lie on a good early Roman line linked to the plunge pool of the early Roman baths.It was abutted by the charcoal sample we took in 2014 giving us an early 2nd century date.

Trench 4c, on the west side of Room 20 showed us that Sir Ian Richmond’s suggestion that a flight of steps may have existed here leading down from the West Range into the colonnade of the North.. did not exist.. but we found evidence for a narrow access passage down into the boiler room for the early North Range steam heat baths.

Lastly…4d, Alex, Harry, Peter and Les heroically removing the claggy clay backfill of the 1962 water works at the Nymphaeum. The Nymphaeum being the stone shrine created in the 4th century in honour to the spirit of the water source, the reason Chedworth could be created here.

IMG_5326

The pipes issuing from the Roman Nymphaeum culvert. Notice the Victorian change of build above Roman foorings at the grass level. The 1962 concrete wall on the left marks the line of a wall probably redundant and robbed out before the Nymphaeum was built.

The discovery of three water pipes..the 1860s lead pipe heading for the Lodge and the two 1960s iron pipes heading for the north range. They had been shoved into the original 4th century culvert.. which survived though slightly damaged. It was 0.3m wide and 0.6m high with a stone floor. I drew it and noticed that the proper Roman stonework was slightly offset and only survived beneath the turf line. Above..at least on the south-east side, was all a Victorian rebuild…

…and Sir Ian’s 1962 concrete interpretive wall, which continued the line of the North Range running into the threshold stones of the Nymphaeum, was built on almost a metre of 1962 made up ground. No Roman stone wall was found. A robber trench had been cut into the natural yellow clay and concluded that this wall had been taken away before the Nymphaeum was built.

Sue, the marble expert came to see us and believes that Chedworth’s marble is so rare for this country that it must have been used at a very special location within the villa. She believes that the octagonal basin at the centre of the Nymphaeum would be such a sacred place. Chedworth’s Nymphaeum cannot be compared closely with any known structure in Roman Britain. So perhaps a particularly sacred site..

Over for another year. Many thanks to everyone who has helped and supported the archaeological work at Chedworth during the last two weeks.

With best wishes

 

Martin

 

Day 10 – Wow!

Two full digging days left, another hot day, the press coming and lots of roman specialist visiting to see what we have found. Our wonderful volunteers put their heads down and delivered the goods.

In the sticky clay trench next to the Nymphaeum Les and Peter carried on uncovering the water pipes, the lead one looks very Victorian rather than roman and seems to be diving deeper than the iron ones. No sign of any roman culverts yet.

Les and Peter managing to work through the sticky clay, the lead pipe is the nearest pipe curving downwards

Les and Peter managing to work through the sticky clay, the lead pipe is the nearest pipe curving downwards

Harry swapped place with Carol and carried on finding a rough wall in the trench behind the north bath house. This trench is nearly finished as it has provided some answers to the questions that dictated its position.

Harry happy with is work

Harry happy with is work

Moving past the north bath house trench, saving the best till last 🙂 we find the mosaic trench opened up yesterday. Carol has experience digging the mosaics so was put in charge of revealing a lot more, and checking the wall that joins the cross passage corridor. Jeannette and Mike joined her on the quest and as you can see found the white and red border just like we found in  the opposite  corner a few years ago.

Jeannette uncovering the second red band

Jeannette uncovering the second red band

Its great to share the joy of archaeology and we were very happy to provide a little digging experience for one of our regular visitors Mike

It’s great to share the joy of archaeology and we were very happy to provide a little digging experience for one of our regular visitors Mike. Great job Mike

Oh! the next trench behind the buttress under the Buckeye tree again provided a wow!  Kerry and Jackie were tasked with removing the dark layer in this trench, Martin had already removed this at one end and found a cut line, were one side is lighter and more yellow than the other. He found some pottery including part of a mortarium- for grinding ingredients for cooking. This trench had already produced the large roman coin and  now produced a very small roman coin! Kerry did a great job spotting this small minim especially with martin watching!

Kerry in the white hat just after her find. Jackie and Kerry being very careful to check their spoil before it goes in the bucket

Kerry in the white hat just after her find. Jackie and Kerry being very careful to check their spoil before it goes in the bucket

The coin –  dates to the 270s on fist look, we had three roman coin specialist on site today, including one who was a visitor from the Netherlands. It’s so small the picture is a bit blurry and I could not hold the camera still enough.

The coin - the spiky crown is know as a radiate

The coin – the spiky crown is known as a radiate

Now back to the bath house trench were the guys have been working hard in the hot conditions to get to the bottom of the rubble and plaster, to find if there is a floor from the earlier 2nd century room. Rob found a large iron object which looks like a wall tie of some kind but when lifted it appears to be more interesting but we will have to get it x-rayed to see its original shape.

Rob's iron object

Rob’s iron object

Last but not least ….Fay had been working for a few days digging past a large stone that would not budge and was in the way. She had found a few large building stones already and thought this would be the same. But it soon showed it was out of the ordinary as she removed more of the rubble layer. I think the pictures say it all but just in case here is what every one exclaimed WOW!!

A view from above

A view from above

A side view of the piece of column

A side view of the piece of column

The last full digging day looms and as the law of archaeology proclaims everything is found on the last day…………..

Day 8 and 9 – Plaster, plaster everywhere and some iron and mosaic!

Due to technical difficulties it’s a bumper edition of the blog 🙂 Day 8 turned into a day of recording, with walls and sections to draw in some of the smaller trenches and the other trenches that are still being dug, had a lovely clean up for photos. Not a lot of fresh digging was done and that that was involved more plaster and ‘little cubes of loveliness’ aka tesserae.

Lovely colourful wall plaster

Lovely colourful wall plaster

Day 9 was an early start as some filming was being done for a documentary about the National Trust. We also had a small section of turf to start lifting to see if there was any mosaic under the turf next to the main north range corridor. We started with a couple of turfs being removed to see what depth the hoped for mosaic was at. Hurray it was there, large whitish and smaller white tesserae of the border of the main entrance room. It did not survive across the whole piece we did but hopefully we will have time to check a larger area.

The small area of mosaic next to the fresh hold stones of the north range corridor

The small area of mosaic next to the threshold stones of the north range corridor

In the north bath house trench loose tesserae hindered the digging, we ended the day with three seed trays piled high with them. The painted wall plaster is still being found, but with no time to check each piece we are waiting for our finds cleaners to have the eureka! moment when they clean of the mud and a face or animal stares back.

A lump of mortar with the ghost lines of the tesserae that have fallen off and lie in the hole it came from

A lump of mortar with the ghost lines of the tesserae that have fallen off and lie in the hole it came from

We have had our first metal objects from the bath house trench a couple if T shaped and L shaped nails/brackets, there are also very small fragments of probable knife blades as well.

L shaped iron object 'a very fine example of its type' as we say when not very sure of what it is!

L shaped iron object ‘a very fine example of its type’ as we say when not very sure of what it is!

More metal was found in the Nymphaeum in the form of water pipes, there were three next to each other, two iron ones and a lead one. Sadly all look to be 20th century. But tomorrow the guys in the trench will be digging around and down to find if the original roman culvert is under these pipes.

Harry cleaning the pipes so we can record them

Harry cleaning the pipes so we can record them

Carol has been slogging away often on her own in the trench below the Nymphaeum one, just behind the wall of the bath house. She has been looking for walls and may have a new one to record. Her best find today was part of an iImbrex which is the curved tile that sat on the join between tegula, the large clay tiles of the roof.

Carol happy with her large piece of imbrex

Carol happy with her large piece of imbrex

We had a treat for lunch, Sue the historic en-actor set up her roman kitchen and we were able to sample her roman creations from bread salad to sweet toast and something with the fish sauce they fermented called garum all very tasty 🙂

Sue and her yummy tempations

Sue and her yummy temptations

Tune in tomorrow to see if we finally find the floor in the north bath house ….

 

 

 

 

Day 7 – Plaster paradise

Hurray! the sky is blue and a shiny ball is warming the earth, rain hats stay in the bag as sun lotion is applied.  Now. once again the eyes are on the bath house trench and everyone squeezes in the get a taste of the amazing painted wall  plaster feast.

Rob, Fay and Allan trying to dig down but held up by numerous lumps of plaster and loose tesserae

Rob, Fay and Allan trying to dig down but held up by numerous lumps of painted wall plaster and loose tesserae

 

What's in the tray? Painted plaster they cry

What’s in the tray? Painted plaster they cry

A small sample of painted wall plaster

A small sample of painted wall plaster

New possible scenes and designs are being dug up with each scrape, many different colours including greens that maybe trees and bushes. Then Fay finds a piece with a nail hole, it still has the rusty stain of the nail! Was it for a laying out line for a new painting or for building work of some kind? Or ……..?

The possible rural scene

The possible rural scene

The nail hole!

The nail hole!

close-up of the nail hole

close-up of the nail hole

After filling three large finds bags with single loose tesserae, Rob uncovered a large piece of mosaic in the last half hour of the day.

Robs Mosaic

Rob’s Mosaic

We must not forget Pat who has helped with post excavation work on the finds today, everyone is getting joy from the painted plaster and the warmth of the sun.

Lovely Pat cleaning the plaster

Lovely Pat cleaning the plaster

Day Four – So it begins …..

We are well and truly into the roman layers today, in the cross passage trench Tony found the original roman foundation trenches for the walls. They show up as darker strips of brown/black  soil against the yellowish surface.

The original wall foundation trenches are in front of Tony and to his right

The original wall foundation trenches are in front of Tony at the bottom of the photo just above the wall and to his right

In the bath house trench the painted plaster is appearing in large dumps, when cleaned of it is mainly painted white with some red stripes and some yellow patches. This is the top of a very deep layer of plaster. We hope to find lower down more designs and patterns.

Rob and Tony cleaning down to reveal the plaster

Rob and Tony cleaning down to reveal the plaster

The plaster cleaned and ready to be lifted so we can find more underneath!

The plaster cleaned and ready to be lifted so we can find more underneath!

More from underneath the white with red stripe pieace

More from underneath the white with red stripe piece

The small unassuming trench next to the cross passage trench but over the wall, produced the exciting find of a coin and this time a roman one! Jan and John found a large oyster shell and when they picked it up Jan spotted a green round thing – the coin.

Word spread, and crowds gathered as the coin reveled its Emperor in his full bearded  glory!

Jan with her coin, red peg marks the spot

Jan with her coin, red peg marks the spot

Roger a volunteer and coin expert had a look and gave us this identification –

‘Galerius 305-311AD co-emperor with Diocletian and Maximianus, its minted in London and is a reform ‘Follis’ on the reverse is Genius’

The obverse of coin

The obverse of coin

The reverse of the coin

The reverse of the coin

Rain is forecast for the fifth day so it waterproofs out and an expectation of getting very muddy!

Day Two – Coins and toothbrushes

Day two dawned bright and sunny, the turf and top soil had been removed and there was a  new trench to open. We were ready for the romans and to go further back in time as the day progressed. Our volunteers were happy and all boded well for some good finds.

Liz one of our happy volunteers - we could not achieve some much with out them thank you one and all

Liz one of our happy volunteers – we could not achieve some much without them thank you one and all

In the north bath house trench Rob cleaned the modern gravel from the area we left unexcavated last year to reveal the roman floor from the last phase of the baths. The line from the old trenches are clear to see as they are filled with yellowish brown soil and the unexcavated roman floor is reddish-brown

Rob in the middle cleaning the top of the original roman surface

Rob in the middle cleaning the top of the original roman surface

Trench four was opened with Alex and Lois doing the hard job of digging through many roots to get under the turf.

Alex and Lois next to the Nympharium - water shrine

Alex and Lois next to the Nympharium – water shrine

With all four trenches open we now had some trays of finds for washing, which provided an opportunity for visitors to help us with our finds work.

Three very good pot washes from left to right Verity, Lorel, and Elsie

Three very good pot washes from left to right Verity, Lorel, and Elsie

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

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

Oh! I nearly forgot the coins. We have found many coins already it started with some 1 and 2 pence pieces from the 1980s and then we had a sixpence from 1951 followed in another trench by a  three pence coin from 1945 and finally ending with a 1911 penny! So we are definitely heading the right way!

Modern coins from the top soil, not in very good condition to say they had not been buried long!

Modern coins from the top soil, not in very good condition to say they had not been buried long!

The sixpence

The sixpence

The three pence piece and the 1911 Penny

The three pence piece and the 1911 Penny

As there is rain in the forecast, the third day will be a busy one trying to get as much done as we can and with hope that the rain will always  come in the night to soften the ground, and the sun will  smile on us in the day time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day One : Ready, steady, dig

Day One is always full of bits and bobs as equipment is unloaded, trenches pegged out, position of spoil heaps decided, volunteers briefed and sun cream applied.

Turf removed and a fresh layer to dig

Turf removed and a fresh layer to dig in the cross passage site, looking for doorways and trying to sort out phasing of walls -which came first.

Some of our lovely volunteers have returned and new ones join us for the first time. Steve and Max return for a day and become the finders of bones! all animal bones so far, mainly sheep.

Max and Steve find a group of bones

Max and Steve find a group of bones and look very pleased about it!

It’s lovely to have fine weather but digging in very hot conditions can be exhausting. We borrowed some of the Chedworth education historical enactors hats as heads and necks began to feel the sun.

A perfect hat for Megan

A perfect hat for Megan

Two more trenches were opened up, including the site from last year in front of the north bath house. Were all last years painted plaster came from , the first job is removing all the back fill to get back to where we stopped last year.

Last years trench being re excavated

Last years trench being re excavated, looking for the original floor levels and the other side of the blocked doorway in the bottom left of the picture.

A trench has been positioned behind the north bath house to look for walls and possible steps that would lead down into the stoke hole and water boiler room for the baths.

Alex, Seb and Carol cleaning back the top soil behind the bath house

Alex, Seb and Carol cleaning back the top soil behind the bath house