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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

Thanks Chris you can visit anytime

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

 

Day five – A little round thing

A cloudy start to the day but that didn’t put off the visitors, we had lots of children with many wonderful questions. Sue runs the finds washing section for us, this involves real excavated finds from the digs and all ages can help wash them and discover animal bone, pottery and get hands on with the tesserae.

Sue waiting for the next wave of youngsters to wash some finds from the dig

One very interested and enthusiastic girl called Trinity, was lucky to visit us when we had time and space to let her help us excavate a bit of the mosaic, Fay was having a late lunch with friends so we asked if Trinity could take her place for a while, Fay was very happy that she would have some help. Thank you Trinity you did a great job ūüôā

Trinity finding the corridor mosaic

Trinity was joined by her mum

Meanwhile in the reception room, Jenni, Sarah, Carol, Nick, Emma, Martin and Pete were all in a line removing first the back fill from the mosaic condition survey in the year 2000, and then the next new area. As with all the trenches from the survey in 2000 they covered the mosaic with orange sand. This is horrid to remove but Pete and Jenni were not to be defeated and did a fantastic job and after a good sponge the potential staining was gone!

Jenni and Pete removing the orange sand

the contrast between the sponged area and the still sandy area

Rob has been working away in a corner of the site for a few days, removing back fill from a previous trench and then extending it. As often happens just near the end of the day and on a Friday, a lovely small find popped out. A coin, and this time it was roman!

Rob has a good eye for spotting the finds and we were able to get an instant identification for him as Prof Simon  Esmonde Cleary a specialist in Roman archaeology who also knows his coins had been visiting the excavations. He was just about to leave when it made its appearance. It is a Constantinus I gloria exercitus РGlory of the Army from AD 339/340,  but it is a contemporary copy made in the local area,

Rob in his trench just after his coin find

The coin

Oh and it rained, not a lot but enough to make the birds sing and to bring out food for them.

Pied wagtail with something juicy in its bill from our spoil heap

 

 

 

Day Four – Lets hear it for the walls

Hurrah! we have a bit more mosaic including another missing design, Steve Cosh the mosaic specialist, I am sure, will be happy to change his first ideas of the design at the east end of the reception room, when he sees what we have found, very exciting.

A knot of ‘pelta’ design

Martin joined Sarah, Andy, Nick, Carol and Pete in the reception room cleaning back the Victorian back fill. He started to find the top of a wall that lined up with the one just past the corridor threshold and along the side of the roman outer wall, that you can see already.

The top of the wall running up the picture with the outer abutting wall to the right

In the picture above you can also see some roman tile -the orange bits and some animal bone and half way up the very left edge a white object – an oyster shell. It looks like we have some roman layer that the Victorians left undisturbed, probably because the mosaic had run out they stopped digging.

Amy’s wall to her left running up the picture from her knee. With the one Martin found just beyond the threshold stones

Diggers all in a row

We may have a bit of rain overnight which will bring the mosaic to life and show all the different colours, we will see ūüôā

 

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 ūüôā

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 Two – Tesseraetastic!

Thankfully the day started cooler than yesterday and everyone had renewed energy to face more tarmac removal and turf cutting.

Fay and Amy being very careful when taking the turf off as the mosaics are not deeply buried and the roots from the grass enclose the tesserae and loosen them

In the reception room, Carol had cleaned of an area we had previously excavated and as she peeled back the geotextile we had put down there appeared a message from the past! Our past and recent past at that! A bag with things in from 2016. When we back fill a site we usually leave behind¬†something to show we have been there, anything from 1 pence¬†coin from the current year,¬†broken pens, messages on plastic labels and even once a pair of old digging boots and the broken site teapot! It is to let future archaeologist know that someone has been there before them, a kind of ritual – there I have said that word ūüôā – closing of the site.

The message from the recent past

Stephanie and Lorna join us to clean back the reception room, the boarder of red and white stripes was in good condition and was carrying on intact. This was a hopeful sign that we may find more intact mosaic further into the room, where the full scheme of original patterns were mostly unknown. Small glimpses of what it maybe had been seen in previous small test holes to check the mosaics condition but there were gaps.

Stephanie and Lorna revealing the red and white boarder

Today was a very good day especially for Martin and I as we managed to get time to have a dig ourselves, which meant that Martin had the honour along with Pete, Carol, Stephanie and Lorna, of finding the new designs that had not seen the light of day since the Victorians covered it up after the excavation in the 1860s. A small section of guilloche¬†¬†pattern and flower petal shape along with a pattern we already knew would be there, a shape we¬†call an ‘egg timer’ due to the two triangle sections.

Lorna, Martin, Stephanie, Pete and Carol tacking off the soil above the more detailed patterns in the reception room

The guilloche design at the top of the photo and a diamond shape next to it then the flower petal below next to the ‘egg timer’ at the bottom of the picture

Meanwhile in the corridor Fay, Rob and Amy have been working away uncovering the checker board pattern which has just changed to a much more complicated design.

Fay Rob and Amy have done a brilliant job in the corridor and have exposed the checker board pattern and are now finding a different design in the next section.

Tomorrow we will start again removing more tarmac and turf first thing then its down on our knees to see what other designs we can find

 

 

 

 

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 ūüôā

 

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 Рthe 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