November 9th 2009.
The Weekend Wanderers met again at this new club farm in Somerton, Oxfordshire for just the second time. This is the story of how new member Pete Steanson located Roman pewter table ware that would ultimately lead to the discovery of a previously unknown of Roman villa!
Finder Peter Steanton
This was Peter Steanson's first ever Weekend Wanderers dig and as a new member he did exactly the right thing and stopped digging as soon as he realized that he had discovered something potentially significant.
Finds Liaison Officer for Oxfordshire Anni Byard was on site at the very start of the dig and was busily keeping up with recording those finds when we had a call that someone had dug up what may be a grave and asked for Anni to take a look.
FLO Anni quickly determined that this was unlikely to be a grave. She immediately made phone calls seeking the proper authorization allowing her to hold a full archaeological excavation there and then.
First though, the landowners had to be called over for their consent and the two brothers Ian and Andy looked on and seemed pleased yet amused at the unexpected find made on the land they had been working for so many years.
Their neighbour had a mini digger and he kindly offered to strip the surface layer of plough soil down to the archaeological strata beneath so a couple of passes were called for. The cleared ground revealed a horizontal layer of dressed stone that we thought looked like a road. Further inspection by Anni in the yellow hi-vis jacket pointed to a far different conclusion. This was the wall of a collapsed Roman building!
Not a bronze pot as closer inspection revealed the upturned base of an earthenware strainer.
A small cup
HEXAGONAL PEWTER PLATES
The uppermost pewter plate is in a poor state of what we thought to be corrosion. It turned out that this plate was partly ash and had been subject to intense heat but was beyond recovery
Yet below this powdered ashy plate more finds were just below as dampened enthusiasm was now excitingly raised once more at the sight of a second pewter plate beneath the tops powdery remains
The Hexagonal dish was intriguingly upside down just like the first ashy top plate. It now looked certain that there had been a domestic fire and that the hexagonal dish below had been protected by the ‘heat shield’ of the upper dish.
There were other goods yet to be revealed...
Now the story begins in full flow. Turning over the second hexagonal dish revealed a third plate but between them was this bone. This was certainly an important clue. The bone had not been charred by the fire that caused the uppermost plate to perish so clearly this fire happened after meal time!
REMNANTS OF A MEAL
Now that all metal work had been very carefully removed, fragments of pottery peeked through the scraped earth.
Ranging from high class Samian ware to all sorts of vessels, it was pretty clear that we were standing in the middle of what must surely be a Roman Kitchen.
With several pieces excavated, the educated theories of what had happened here nearly 1,700 years ago. Had there indeed been a fire raging through the building? As the last sherds were bagged and tagged, the last soil at the very deepest part of the excavation revealed a blackened layer giving the strongest suggestion that the fire had consumed the building. One burnt coin was recovered from this layer as yet to be identified.
A sooty streak in the soil proves there had been a fire at this building. The animal bone, remains of a completed meal was discovered in context between unburnt plates that were all upside down. It is possible that the washing up had been stacked up ready for the return of the occupants who maybe went for an after dinner stroll.
Maybe the kitchen fire threw out a spark, igniting something in the kitchen and ultimately destroying this part of the house.