Roman villa in garden

19 April 2016
Archaeology

At www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/17/amazing-find-roman-villa … electricians digging a hole to lay a cable to a snooker and games room struck a mosaic floor – and luckily the owner was interested enought to call in archaeologists to have a probe around the field behind his house. They found he had been using a stone sarcophagus for his bedding plants (not realising it was used for an ancient burial) and the land around abouts had harboured a massive villa complex (a sort of Roman manor farm). The walls are preserved to over 1m in height – but they were buried under alluvial sediments from a nearby river. It has not been ascertained as yet when those sediments were laid down – or how quickly that might have happened. Presumably the thinking is that it occurred over a prolonged period of time – but we shall have to wait and see.

Timber from the post-Roman period has also been found – although the villa was mainly occupied much earlier. This has posed problems and now the effort of archaeologists will focus on what happened in the little known dark ages of the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The use of the villa seems to have outlasted the Romans – but this was an elite villa which seems to indicate the world did not collapse after the Romans left. They have to discover when the villa actually went out of existence. Is there any evidence of an invasion by Anglo Saxons (an area of dispute) and who were the occupants in the 3rd and 4th centuries.

The villa is situated in a river valley in Wiltshire. Why should this particular villa display evidence of post-Roman activity and others do not. Have archaeologists in the past actually been looking for post-Roman evidence or did they focus too much on the Roman period. Why don't other villas display evidence of post-Roman occupation – and what about the Roman towns. Why were they abandoned. Indeed, were they abandoned in the manner usually associated with their demise – as a result of an invasion by barbarians with no use for towns.

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