Roman villa revealed in Cambridge

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Archaeologists from Cambridge Archaeological Unit have uncovered the remains of a Roman villa at Eddington – a new district of Cambridge. (PHOTO: University of Cambridge)

The remains of a Roman villa and aisled hall have been discovered during a Cambridge Archaeological Unit excavation in advance of the new University of Cambridge development at Eddington, a new district of Cambridge.

Previous excavations in the area had already revealed a rich archaeological landscape, with the discovery of two prehistoric funerary monuments, Roman settlements, cemeteries, and roads, but the team were not expecting further major finds.

‘We found all of these building materials during our trench work back in 2009, but we thought the villa must have been covered up by the Park & Ride,’ explained Marcus Brittain, the site director. ‘But as we started to dig further, we actually found this really significant and exciting building right here.’

(PHOTO: University of Cambridge)

While the full excavation has yet to be completed, it has already revealed a rectangular Roman enclosure containing the outline of a ‘winged-type’ villa, along with a large aisled hall and other buildings. The team has also found fragments of decorative glass jars imported from across the Roman Empire (pictured above), tiles from under-floor heating systems, and, most excitingly, approximately 500 red, yellow, and white tesserae, which probably formed part of a mosaic floor.

‘The site is a tremendous find,’ said Christopher Evans, Executive Director of Cambridge Archaeological Unit. ‘It represents the last piece in the puzzle of west and north-west Cambridge’s Roman landscape. Over the past 20 years, we’ve been able to excavate a number of small Roman farmsteads, but finally getting the villa allows us to see how all these parts interacted.’

He continues, ‘Indeed, taken together, the excavations now amount to one of the most comprehensive investigations of Roman land-use anywhere within what was the Roman Empire.’ Excavations are expected to continue into November, so further discoveries may yet be made.

This article appeared in CA 344.

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