Digging History

Grand Roman villa discovered in the UK

The Roman mosaic (Wiltshire Archaeology Service).

The Roman mosaic (Wiltshire Archaeology Service).

Archaeologists in the United Kingdom have unearthed the opulent home of a Roman-era 'Kardashian' family.

A dad in Wiltshire, England, dug up a lot more than rocks and dirt as he was laying electric cables from his home to an old barn so that his kids could play pingpong there.

Luke Irwin, a London-based rug designer, discovered a mosaic that archaeologists say was part of a grand Roman villa built between 175 AD and 220 AD and was repeatedly remodeled into the 4th century.

The villa, one of the largest ever found in the U.K., would have belonged to a family of extraordinary wealth and importance, said archaeologists from Historic England and Salisbury Museum.

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“This site has not been touched since its collapse 1,400 years ago and, as such, is of enormous importance,” said Historic England archaeologist David Roberts.

“The discovery of such an elaborate and extraordinarily well preserved villa, undamaged by agriculture for over 1,500 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.”

Experts said the discovery will likely offer insight into the period between the start of the 5th century and the completion of Saxon domination in the 7th century, and how people responded to the collapse of the Roman Empire.

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Other artifacts discovered on the property were discarded oyster shells, which would have had to be transported by foot for over 45 miles; a perfectly preserved Roman well; and an out-in-the-open stone coffin of a Roman child that was holding geraniums until it was identified.

“I was overwhelmed by the realization that someone’s lived on this site for 2,000 years,” Irwin said. “You look out at an empty field from your front door, and yet 1,500 years ago there was the biggest house, possibly, in all of Britain.”