Roman Site in Wiltshire


    AN impressive indication of the general diffusion of a high degree of refinement in mode of life in Roman Britain, and also of the economic and social decadence which accompanied the decay of Roman rule, is afforded by the remains of a villa recently discovered at Atworth in Wiltshire (The Times, August 6). It is indeed remarkable that traces of a building of such an extent as has been revealed in the excavations of 1937–38 should have evaded previous record. Its existence was made known only through the discovery by a schoolboy in a cornfield of a coin afterwards identified as of Constantine I. This led to an investigation, which was begun in August 1937 and at once revealed courses of masonry, in some instances no more than six inches below the ploughed surface, now known to have been part of an L-shaped house of 'corridor' type, containing at least twenty-four rooms or passages, a suite of baths, four or possibly five hypocaust chambers, a flight of six stone steps, and three rather inferior tesselated floors. Evidence that either on this site, or in the immediate neighbourhood, there had stood a building of considerable architectural pretensions was found in the form of fragments of stone used to support a floor in one of the hypocausts, which were well worked and showed good mouldings. They had once formed part of a cornice or plinth of a building in classic style. The house was roofed with purplish pointed tiles of sandstone from the neighbourhood of Bristol. Many rooms show evidence of conflagration in the form of a black deposit, mostly charcoal, above the floor, in which are broken tiles and roof nails. In places three occupation levels can be seen, and sometimes the highest immediately above the burnt deposit is a primitive floor of rough flat stone or irregularly fitted pieces of roof-tile. Series of bronze coins range from Gallienus (A.D. 253–268) to Valens (A.D. 364–378) ; while the pottery can be ascribed to the second, third and fourth centuries A.D. It is thought that the villa may have been partially destroyed by fire in the raids of Picts, Scots, Franks and Saxons in A.D. 367, when many villas in south and western Britain were abandoned, to be occupied later, when the raiders had been driven out, by lower class Romano-Britons.

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    Roman Site in Wiltshire. Nature 142, 284 (1938).

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