According to The Telegraph, the villa had 20 to 25 rooms on the ground floor and was built sometime between 175 AD and 220 AD. It was repeatedly re-modeled right up until the mid- 4th century.
Exploration of the site at Deverill Villa revealed the surviving sections of walls measuring 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) in height. A mosaic formed a part of the grand villa, which is believed to have been three-storeys high, with grounds extending over 100 meters (328.08 feet) in width and length. It was accidentally discovered by Luke Irwin, a rug designer. He was installing electric cables in a barn in 2015 when he uncovered a mosaic near the foundations. It appeared to be in remarkably good condition, so Mr. Irwin called the Wiltshire Archaeology Service.
The Roman mosaic Mr. Irwin found in his backyard. (Youtube/Luke Irwin Rugs)The Roman villa was found under the backyard of Mr. Irwin’s 17th century house after an eight-day archaeological dig sponsored by Historic England and the local Salisbury Museum. Apart from the mosaic and ruined walls, the researchers from Salisbury discovered many precious artifacts, which may provide more information about life in the area during the 3rd century AD.
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The discovery also contained a perfectly preserved Roman well, underfloor heating pipes, and the stone coffin of a Roman child. The coffin had long been used by the inhabitants of the house as a flower pot. Oyster shells were also unearthed - which were transported over 45 miles (72.42 km) from the coast. This discovery confirms that the villa was a home of an important and wealthy family.''This site has not been touched since its collapse 1400 years ago and, as such, is of enormous importance. Without question, this is a hugely valuable site in terms of research, with incredible potential. The discovery of such an elaborate and extraordinarily well-preserved villa, undamaged by agriculture for over 1500 years, is unparalleled in recent years. Overall, the excellent preservation, large scale and complexity of this site present a unique opportunity to understand Roman and post-Roman Britain.''
The child’s stone coffin. (News.com.au)The recently discovered villa is very similar to another one that was found in 1864 at Chedworth, in Gloucestershire. That one was fully excavated, put on display and acquired by the National Trust in 1924. The Chedworth villa was built as a dwelling around the three sides of a country yard. It had a beautiful mosaic floor, and two separate bathing suites. Like the Deverill Villa, it also belonged to a wealthy and important family.
The researchers from Salisbury believe that it is possible the villa could have been a private property of at least one of the Roman Emperors. As Simon Sebag Montefiore, one of Britain’s leading historians said: "This remarkable Roman villa, with its baths and mosaics uncovered by chance, is a large, important and very exciting discovery that reveals so much about the luxurious lifestyle of a rich Romano British family at the height of the empire.''
Screenshot showting the Roman villa as rendered by a video artist, based on the discoveries made at the site. (Youtube/Luke Irwin Rugs)Unfortunately, the excavations could not be completed, because the cost of a full excavation and preservation of such a place would be too high. The researchers would like to go back and carry out more grids, but it would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Salisbury Museum decided that until they find more money, the villa and its mosaic had to be re-buried and grassed over to protect them from the elements.
However, even if it became financially possible to complete the dig, Mr. Irwin does not want his garden turned into a museum.
Well preserved Roman villas have been found in many of the former domains of the Roman Empire. In southern Europe, a number of them are now open-air museums. One of the most spectacular is located in Rabaçal, Portugal, 12 kilometers (7.46 miles) away from Conimbriga. The Roman housing complex was excavated in 1984. It was inhabited until around the 6th century AD, and currently it is used as a museum, which protects the remarkable set of mosaics that decorated the villa. The designs have African and Oriental influences, something unique in the art of this period in Portugal. They present seasons, quadriga mosaics, female figures, and vegetable and geometric compositions.
Featured Image: Excavations at the site of the Roman villa. Source: Youtube/Luke Irwin Rugs
By Natalia Klimczak