Time Team in Gloucestershire
The Moles that discovered a Roman Villa
Bits of mosaic that were found in mole hills in a Gloucestershire field have led to TV's Time Team unearthing a previously unknown Roman villa...
Mick Aston, Phil Harding, and John Gater on camera
A family of moles have helped to uncover a Roman Villa at Withington on the outskirts of Cheltenham.
Channel 4's Time Team came to visit Gloucestershire in the Summer of 2005 after a local archaeologist noticed bits of mosaic had turned up in a mole hill. Roger Box recognised the fragments as tesserae and called in Tony Robinson and the gang.
The TV experts then spent three days digging around at the site, and uncovered a previously unknown Roman villa. The programme will be transmitted in a few weeks time - on January 29th 2006.
Director of the Time Team episode featuring Withington, Laurence Vulliamy, told BBC Gloucestershire: "It's extraordinary. We came down and looked at it... and thought this can only mean one thing - inches under the ground there must be something going on... We dug down and within an hour or two we found a mosaic floor.
The Roman mosaic is filmed in close-up
"By the end of the day we'd found a number of walls, a collapsed roof, the beginnings of a second mosaic, and what we thought was the remains of a hypercaust - or underfloor heating system."
"In all my experience of Time Team Withington is undoubtedly the best the richest site that we've ever dug on because we found so much so quickly. We found almost as much in the first day as we normally find in three days."
The villa was discovered close to the site of another Roman villa which was unearthed in 1811 by renowned antiquarian Samuel Lysons. Neil Holbrook from Cotswold Archaeology said: "It's unusual for two villas to be found so close together. I went and looked at the sight before we started digging... and there was a slight worry in my mind.
Victor Ambrus recreates the Roman villa
"I'd heard a rumour that when the sight up the road had been dug in the 19th Century all the stone had been shipped out in the soil heaps and dumped at the bottom. But no, it came up trumps."
The newly discovered villa at Withington along with the Lysons' villa make up a complex which must have been extremely impressive, and possibly bigger than the famous Chedworth Roman villa - just a few miles away.
Laurence Vulliamy said: "This area (The Cotswolds) probably had the highest concentration of Roman villas in the country, and undoubtedly would have been described as the Roman stockbroker belt.
"It was a phenomenally rich area to farm and to live in - it had enormous natural resources. It's still very beautiful countryside but in those days it must have been the golden place to be in Britain."
Click on the link below to listen to Laurence Vulliamy interviewed by BBC Radio Gloucestershire's Matt Peacock.
Also taking part in the discussion are Neil Holbrook from the Cotswold Archaeological Trust and Mark Goodall from Chedworth Roman Villa.
last updated: 07/04/2008 at 11:57
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