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TVAS News: Chilton Fields Roman Villa

While investigating a site near Chilton, Oxfordshire in advance of development TVAS have discovered a multi-phase Roman building and underlying ring gully. The work, on behalf of David Wilson Homes, required the top- and subsoil to be stripped off an area exposing the gravel geology underneath. Once the soil had been removed the archaeological features could be identified in the surface of the gravel and subsequently excavated and recorded.

The first area to be stripped revealed the chalk-built foundations of a building which consisted of a large rectangular room with smaller rooms around the edges. As the area was excavated and artefacts were discovered it became obvious that the structure dated to the Roman period and was possibly the remains of a villa. Finds such as pottery, coins, animal bone and even painted wall plaster were recovered from features within the structure and in its immediate surroundings. A surprising discovery was the skeleton of a baby buried in the building itself. Such discoveries are not uncommon on Roman villa sites and have been interpreted as many things, including dedications or evidence of unofficial births.

Click here to discover more about the finds from the Chilton villa

As work continued, the remains of a small two-roomed structure which comprised of an arched stokehole and a covered hypocaust were discovered to the east of the main building. Although it is not known what the structure was used for the fire from the stokehole would have heated the air in the hypocaust, warming the room above. After the structure went out of use it served as a rubbish dump and it was here that much of the painted wall plaster from the villa was found. Further to the north a series of ditches were discovered that also dated to the Roman period. These probably represent farming enclosures and show that the villa building was part of a wider estate complex.

A further discovery was made beneath the building which suggested that the site had been occupied before the villa had been built. The ring gully measuring approximately 12m in diameter was found under the Roman structure and is probably the remains of a roundhouse dating to the Iron Age or early Roman periods. It is tempting then to imagine the Iron Age farmer who made good when the Romans arrived and replaced his roundhouse with a stylish new villa!

Click on the image thumbnails below for larger versions:

The Roman building during the early stages of excavation. An aerial overview of the villa site.

Aerial view of the eastern end of the building showing the underlying ring gully. Excavations on the building continue. The double row of pits can be seen in the foreground.

The heated structure. In the foreground is the stokehole which would have heated the air in the hypocaust behind. Detail of the stokehole arch showing the blackening on the floor caused by the burning.

Click to see photos of the finds Click to see photos of the finds