Mysterious Roman villa reveals its secrets

A remote Roman villa in Wales has revealed its secrets to archaeologists.

The villa at Abermagwr in west Wales was first discovered by aerial photography in 2006. Located 31 miles away from the nearest Roman villa, the site has long fascinated archaeologists.

Just over 30 known or possible Roman villas are believed to be in Wales, most of which are in the south or east of the country, experts say. The Abermagwr discovery sheds new light on an area previously thought to be a “militarized” zone with little interaction between Romans and the local population and little adoption of Roman customs.

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Excavations at the site began in 2010. Supported by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the digs revealed that the villa was established around 230 A.D., at least a century after a nearby Roman fort was abandoned. “It was occupied until around AD 330 when it was abandoned following a catastrophic fire,” explained the Royal Commission, in a statement. “A cooking pot dropped on the kitchen floor was never picked up showing the urgency of the evacuation.”

The original discovery of part of the cut-glass Roman vessel in July 2011 by a local volunteer excavator.  (Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales [RCAHMW])

The original discovery of part of the cut-glass Roman vessel in July 2011 by a local volunteer excavator.  (Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales [RCAHMW])

The final excavation report in the journal Archaeologia Cambrensis details the artifacts discovered at the site. A Roman cut-glass vessel, similar to a small bowl, is described as the “star find” of the excavation.

Archaeologists were surprised to find fragments of such an ornate bowl. “It was an extraordinary item of luxury for this modest villa, probably used for mixing wine and water at grand dinner parties and celebrations,” explained the Royal Commission, in its statement.

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Experts also analyzed pieces of the villa’s slate roof, estimating that over 9,000 slates weighing up to 23 tonnes were used for the building.

Roman cut-glass vessel or bowl. Photographs of some of the surviving fragments of the spectacular cut-glass vessel, with an inset showing a reconstruction drawing of the bowl by Yvonne Beadnell. (Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales [RCAHMW])

Roman cut-glass vessel or bowl. Photographs of some of the surviving fragments of the spectacular cut-glass vessel, with an inset showing a reconstruction drawing of the bowl by Yvonne Beadnell. (Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales [RCAHMW])

The artifacts are the latest in a slew of fascinating finds from Roman Britain. Archaeologists, for example, recently discovered a 2,000-year-old Roman cemetery in Lincolnshire, England. In a separate project, a mysterious Roman bronze hand was discovered near Hadrian’s Wall in the North of England.

Earlier this year, archaeologists also unearthed ancient boxing gloves at the site of Vindolanda, an ancient Roman fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall.

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Last year, a trove of artifacts, including Roman swords, was discovered at Vindolanda. Researchers also found 25 wooden ink documents at the former fort, offering a fascinating glimpse into everyday life in the Roman Empire.

In 2014, a stunning hoard of ancient silver, believed to have been used as bribes by Romans, was found with a metal detector by a teenager in Scotland.

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