Gayton's Roman villa bigger and better than thought
NEW pieces of history are being unveiled at a West Norfolk Roman villa, after archaeologists discovered it is much larger than anyone had first thought.
Previously-unearthed rooms and artwork dating back to the gladiatorial era have been revealed at Gayton Thorpe, thanks to a team of enthusiasts re-excavating the site for the first time in more than 80 years.
Originally uncovered by locals in 1922, the opulent villa boasted grand corridors and intricate mosaics, and would have been home to generations of wealthy families.
For many years its main mosaic – the only one recorded in situ in Norfolk – was partially exposed until a hut that had been protecting it fell into disrepair in the 1960s.
Now archaeologists have started to uncover the mosaic again, and more, in a year-long project which started on the site earlier this month.
Manager of the excavations, John Shepherd, of University College London, said: "The importance of the site is known but we are adding to the knowledge and have discovered that it may well be much more important and much bigger than originally thought."
He said the villa was very large, built around 160 to 180AD, and probably belonged to a very wealthy and influential family.
Archaeologists are now preparing to open the site to the public on Bank Holiday Monday to give a guided tour of the dig. The event, from 9am to 5pm, is free and will also include Roman re-enactments.
The team is also appealing for information on the original dig from locals who saw the site before it was covered over. They are trying to contact relatives of Mr W. Charlton, who started the first ever excavation, but died before he could finish.
They would particularly like to see old pictures of the dig, which was regularly looted by trophy hunters in the first half of the century.
Michael de Bootman, managing director of Heritage Marketing and Publications, from Great Dunham, is co-funding the project, together with Chris Birks Archaeology.
He is extremely excited to be working on the site, having scoured the same field for clues of Roman existence as a ten-year-old budding archaeologist.
"It's absolutely fantastic to be here. Having visited the site as a child I never thought 20 years later I would be working here," he said.
Mr de Bootman is helping to record the dig, and said the company would be publishing the findings within 18 months of project completion, and making a film which may be sent out to local schools as an educational tool.
For more information on the dig visit: www.heritagemp.com/ gaytonthorpe.asp