Report on the 2017 Work at the Lufton Roman Villa from Dr James Gerard of Newcastle University
This summer saw the second season of excavation by Newcastle University on the Lufton Roman villa.
The trench (Trench B) was excavated in the northern part of the scheduled area and was positioned to investigate the unusual octagonal bath house. The intention was to identify the location of the bath and also test the state of its preservation (including the fish mosaic).
Due to the challenges in relocating Hayward’s earlier excavations we placed Trench A in 2016 over what we thought to be the southern end of the structure. The remains we discovered last year seemed to correlate with what Hayward recorded but there were a number of difficulties in reconciling his plan with the archaeological remains. The resolution of this problem came in 2017. Trench B proved to be too far north because Trench A was not over the southern end of the villa but over its central rooms. This means that the room we considered to be Hayward’s Room 4 last year was, in fact, a previously unexcavated room.
Trench B revealed a number of rubbly deposits that appear to represent the collapse/demolition of the bath house. These sealed a late Roman rubbish layer containing fresh pieces of Roman pottery and a small but significant animal bone assemblages. Samples were taken from all of these deposits for scientific analysis.
The southern end of Trench B also revealed one of the buttressed of the bath house, the robbed out wall and a short length of the fish mosaic, which proved to be very well preserved. By sheer chance we came down on a piece of the mosaic that had not been fully recorded by the previous excavator. This means that we have added new information to our understanding of the mosaic and also increased the number of fish on it from 29 to 30.
Finds from this year include a fragment of a brooch and 15 Roman coins.
A very successful opening evening and public lecture were also held to publicise our work in the local community along with the day-by-day excavation blog.
Post-excavation work on last season and this season continues. We have so far analysed the: coins; the pottery; the animal bone; the human bone (from a disturbed infant burial); the terrestrial molluscs; the marine molluscs; the charcoal and burnt seeds; soil micromorphology; geological materials and survey data. Digitisation of the plans and stratigraphic analysis is continuing.
Overall, this season has helped us to locate where our excavations are in relation to Hayward’s plan of the villa. We have also been able to show the state of preservation of the mosaics in the bath house and their depth. In addition we have generated new information about the Roman activity on the site.
We are currently working towards the technical report (post-excavation assessment) required by Historic England and this will take our energies for the next few months. A copy of this will be forwarded to the Parish Council when it is completed.