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ARCHAEOLOGY

Lost medieval mansion found at UK construction site

  • British archaeologists have uncovered the remains of stone foundations in a pattern which suggests that there may have been a series of medieval buildings on a modern construction site. The mystery lies in exactly what the buildings were once used for.Wessex Archaeology

  • These medieval decorated floor tiles suggest that these were substantial buildings of high status.Wessex Archaeology

  • Somerset locals visit the site on July 13th to learn more about the mysterious medieval structure at Longforth Farm on Archaeology Day; hosted by Bloor Homes.Rob Perrett/Wessex Archaeology

It sounds like a case for Sherlock Holmes: a 900-year-old medieval manor mysteriously vanishes, only to be uncovered later by British archaeologists.

The ancient site has been stripped of its materials except for the foundation -- and there is no record of it ever existing.

Got chills? So do the archaeologists who discovered it.

"This is a significant find and therefore very exciting, particularly as there are no documentary records that such a site ever existed here," said Wessex Archaeology's senior buildings archaeologist Bob Davis, who participated in the excavation.

Excavators from the company arrived on April 8 at the site in Longforth Farm in Wellington, Somerset, a small agricultural county in southwest England. They planned to perform an archaeological dig prior to the construction of a housing development by Bloor Homes, as required by the Somerset Country Council.

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They had no way of knowing their routine excavation would reveal a hidden series of buildings dating to the 12th through 14th century.

"Such things are as rare as hen's teeth."

- Bob Davis of Wessex Archaeology

"This sort of thing turning up -- a large medieval building of such high status without any surviving historical records -- it's exceptionally mysterious and strange," senior historic environment officer for the Somerset Country Council Steve Membery told ThisIsCornwall.co.uk.

"It looks as if it's a previously unrecorded, undocumented, high-status, ecclesiastical manor house," Davis told the British paper. "Such things are as rare as hen's teeth."

All that remains from what appears to have been an impressive, affluent mansion is the stone foundation and a few leftover artifacts. It is expected that antiquities thieves would steal valuables from the site, but archaeologists are literally picking at scraps to find out what happened to the doors, windows, stones and other materials that are to be found in a large manor.

They were able to uncover stunningly glazed ceramic roof tiles and carefully decorated floor tiles, however, suggesting the buildings were of high status, perhaps used for religious services.

But much like the American colony of Roanoke, N.C., whomever used the buildings left no trace or record of their existence; they appear to have simply vanished.

"We do not yet know who owned or used the buildings," community and education officer for Wessex Archaeology Laura Joyner told FoxNews.com. "They appear to form a distinct complex of buildings."

The most recent discovery has helped shed some light on the use for some of the structures.

According to Wessex Archaeology, the two tiles pictured below confirm the existence of private chambers and a possible chapel at the Longforth Farm site.

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The tile on the left includes a checkered agent or shield motif, which possibly relates to the family name of St. Barbe, a medieval aristocratic British family. Centuries later, Ursula St. Barbe, the daughter of Henry St. Barbe from Somerset with the same last name, was a lady in the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England in the late 1500s.

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The second tile, similar to one found at Glastonbury Abbey, is a depiction of a helmeted King Richard I (1189-1199) on horseback, charging his enemy. The tile "would originally have had an opposing tile showing Saladin, Sultan of Egypt, also in a symbolic combat pose," according to Wessex Archaeology. "These two great adversaries were involved in the Third Crusade (1189–1192) and are often depicted together on this type of floor tile."

Based on the artifacts, the owners of the buildings were wealthy and powerful. So what happened to those medieval VIPs?

The approximately 1,400 locals who flocked to the site when it opened to the public want to know as well.

"Hopefully, this fills in a missing bit of the jigsaw of medieval Somerset," Davis added.

"Excavation is ongoing, but will come to an end next week," Joyner confirmed to FoxNews.com. Wessex archaeologists hope to have more answers soon.