Highlights of the Roman Cotswolds – Trip to Chedworth Villa & Cirencester Museum

IMG_4356After our trip to Chedworth Villa last year, many volunteers were keen to visit again this year when the Chedworth summer excavations were taking place. Chedworth run a 2 week excavation every August in a programme exploring the north wing of the villa. In 2014 they found a large unknown mosaic floor measuring 18m x 6m long. The archaeologists think this must represent a grand reception hall. Our visit to Chedworth this August was in the final week of this year’s excavation programme.

IMG_4353The archaeologists were digging the changing room area of the north wing bath house and an adjacent apsidal room. Here they found more beautiful sections of coloured mosaic floor, plain tesserae, and some very fine painted plaster. We were shown some of the best pieces of plaster, one of which had a complicated geometric design on, very different from the plain colour washes and occasional red stripe on the plaster fragments we found near the temple buildings at our site in Marcham. The mosaic segments we were shown had a curvilinear design executed in bright reds, blues and white. Again this was in great contrast to the evidence we had for tessellated floors at the Marcham site, all of which has been recorded in detail by the Trendles volunteers. The bulk of our tesserae were plain cut-down red tile or brick, representing plain tessellated floors, rather than decorative mosaic floors.

After looking at the excavations our group had a good look around the Roman workrooms where one expert was demonstrating Roman medical techniques and tools, and another was talking about techniques of constructing mosaic floors. The expert in Roman medicine showed us the extensive Roman tool kit the more skilled doctors would have used, including small circular tubes with serrated edges for cutting a hole in the skull and various lancing and probing tools –some of which brought a tear to the eye just thinking about their use! Various members of our team, including Jon and Sue who are both doctors, asked some probing questions (no pun intended!) about these ancient medical techniques. I think we all learned something new about the Romans on this visit to Chedworth Villa – the educational programme Chedworth offers is always extremely good.

IMG_4370After lunch at Chedworth we moved on to Corinium Museum at Cirencester for a look around the museum and a talk about the treasures of Corinium by Collections Officer James Harris. We were shown some wonderful finds from the Museum’s store rooms, which house an Aladdin’s Cave of archaeological objects from the rich Prehistoric, Roman, Saxon, and Medieval past of the area. As Cirencester was at one point the second Roman city of Roman Britain, the Roman material from the city excavations is particularly impressive. We were shown tray loads of Roman copper alloy brooches, and beautiful metal animal figurines, many from the museum’s 19th century founding collection from the Earl of Bathurst and Wilfred Cripps.

We were also shown some fine examples of pottery from the Roman forum in Corinium, and some gilded highly decorative Anglo-Saxon brooches from the Butlers Field Anglo-Saxon Cemetery site. James also passed round some fabulous almost complete Bronze Age pottery beakers with complex geometric decoration, and some amazing Stone Age tools from the collection. It’s always a treat to be able to hold these objects from the past, to get a direct connection, as it were. I should emphasise that all of the volunteers, being very experienced now in handling archaeological objects, were very careful not to drop any of these precious pieces as they were passed around! We all enjoyed this look at the collections behind the scenes and send our thanks to James Harris for a really enjoyable talk.