From EDP 24:

A spectacular villa dating from the reign of the emperor Commodus is being painstakingly re-excavated in the county after lying untouched for more than 80 years.

First uncovered by locals in 1922, the site in Gayton Thorpe, near King's Lynn, would have been home to generations of wealthy Romano-Britons.

Filled with intricate mosaic floors and opulent wall-paintings, it was a display of ostentatious wealth to rival any of Norfolk's modern crop of grand buildings.

Covered with concrete and left largely forgotten until this month, the villa is now being re-evaluated by academics and amateur enthusiasts using cutting-edge archaeo-logical techniques.

Manager of the excavations, John Shepherd, of University College London, said: "The villa was very large, made probably around 160 to 180AD.

"The quality of it suggests that the family who owned this building would have probably had a large estate in the area, and also would have been very wealthy and influential in local affairs.

"They probably also would have had a large retinue and a few slaves."

Archaeologists arrived at the site on August 11 and are working on the dig until the end of next week.

Workers believe this flooring would have occupied a large area in the villa's reception hall, with a large roundel in the middle and geometric patterns surrounding it.

The walls of the room would have been further adorned with exotic wall paintings.

Mr Shepherd said: "I think we have demonstrated that this was a very large estate and very important in the part of the province.

"The main building would have been about 70m long and 30m wide."

The building is believed to have been constructed at around the time of the emperor Commodus, who was depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator as an evil, incestuous malcontent.

Historians believe the notoriously unhinged ruler dressed as the Greek hero Hercules, wearing lion skins and carrying a club.

Archaeologists at the site have appealed for more information on the original dig from locals who may have seen the site before it was cemented over.

They would particularly like to see old pictures of the dig, which was regularly looted by trophy hunters in the first half of the 20th century.

As a 10-year-old, he would scour the same field for clues of Roman existence and was keen to help re-excavate the site.

He is helping to record the dig and said the company would produce a film on it which may be sent out to local schools as an educational tool.

An open day is being held at the dig on Bank Holiday Monday for visitors to come and see what has been found.

Visitors will be given guided tours and have the opportunity to view the finds made by the team.

The site is off the B1145 close to Gayton Thorpe.

The project has a useful website ...


This post of yours brought back memories of my visit to the Roman Villa in Ahrweiler, Germany in 2003. I went back to my web page about it, updated it, and blogged it today myself:
Irene Hahn