A British homeowner who was revamping an old barn unearthed the remains of a previously undiscovered Roman villa in his back yard.

Luke Irwin was laying electric cables in his Wiltshire backyard when he uncovered a previously untouched mosaic. Government preservation department Historic England released a statement about its discovery:

….During building work, the owner, Luke Irwin, came across an untouched mosaic and immediately called the Wiltshire Archaeology Service, who invited Historic England and Salisbury Museum to investigate the discovery.

Historic England and Salisbury Museum carried out an eight-day excavation of part of the site. Together we confirmed that the mosaic formed part of a well preserved, complex villa which was built sometime between 175 AD and 220 AD, and was repeatedly re-modelled right up until the mid to late 4th century, with evidence of reuse of the site during the 5th century.

Subsequent excavations unearthed coins, jewelry, and pottery — and identified a stone planter that Irwin’s family was using to grow geraniums as once having been a child’s coffin.

geranium pot

 

The excavation’s leader told the BBC that the villa was built sometime between the years 175 and 220 AD, and clearly belonged to a high-status family:

“We’ve found a whole range of artefacts demonstrating just how luxurious a life that was led by the elite family that would have lived at the villa,” said Dr David Roberts, of Historic England.

“It’s clearly not your run-of-the-mill domestic settlement.” Dr Roberts said the villa, built sometime between AD 175 and 220, had “not been touched since its collapse 1,400 years ago”, which made it “of enormous importance”.

“Without question, this is a hugely valuable site in terms of research, with incredible potential,” he said. “It’s one of the best sites I have ever had the chance to work on.”

Archaeologists are comparing the villa to the extensive (and famous) site at Chedworth, in Gloucestershire.