Roman gem discovery

PUBLISHED: 07:25 01 June 2006 | UPDATED: 09:23 24 May 2010

TWO newly qualified archaeology graduates say they have uncovered a massive Roman villa complex in the Mendip Hills.

TWO newly qualified archaeology graduates say they have uncovered a massive Roman villa complex in the Mendip Hills.The Weston-based graduates used specialist geophysics equipment to reveal what are thought to be two 60m buildings forming a prestigious courtyard villa with a separate bath building.The buildings probably belonged to a rich landowner from the second or third century AD.Limited excavation work at the site near Cheddar has thrown up patterned wall plaster and ancient cooking equipment and could hide a treasure of mosaic tiles and other artefacts.But treasure hunters have already struck the site once and its exact location is being kept hidden.Archaeologists Glyn Wellington and Carol Hughes have been working at the location for over a year, together with John Mathews of Winscombe. Glyn, aged 53, graduated from a part- time degree course last year. He said: "The house probably belonged to someone of high status, it could have been a very rich landowner."We only excavated a two by one meter area inside the building and every layer contained Roman materials. If we'd carried on we would have found a tremendous amount."It was very exciting to find it. We were shocked more than anything else. We had a world expert visit the site and he said we hadn't found the main structure yet. I think this could be huge."We think we've found a bath house too. From the geophysics work it could have a plunge pool as well, which would mean there would be mosaics there. Roman villas usually had a bath, it was part of their culture."We had to close a dig because of treasure hunters last year. Any Roman site is prolific in finds - it's full of pottery and debris. "Raiders came late at night and started digging in our trench. We filled it in, which stops them dead."The site has also thrown up 80 Mesolithic and Neolithic flints, aged 8,000 to 10,000-years-old, including a well-preserved arrow head.Glyn and Carol also used geophysics equipment, where land is scanned by a machine for structures hidden underground, to uncover another Roman villa in Cheddar.The pair uncovered a 60m villa, complete with a bath suite, which was under the lawn at the vicarage in Parsons Pen. Excavations some decades ago aimed to find a Roman villa in the village, but had unsuccessfully focussed at the Kings of Wessex Community School site.Glyn and Carol are due to report their findings to Somerset County Council soon.

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