Turkdean Roman Villa’s Excavation Process

The modern archaeology relies on a whole range of tools, methods, and techniques that help the scientists to evaluate the sites before the beginning of excavations. The sites of different kind can be analyzed in a variety of aspects such as their chemical composition, the kinds of objects situated under the surface of the ground, their size, shape, exact location, and even their authenticity. The excavation of Roman Villa found in the parish of Turkdean in Gloucestershire conducted in 1997 and 1998 included the employment of multiple evaluation techniques and relied on the latest technologies available to the archaeologists and investigators of that time.

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As mentioned in the Time Team program, the presence of Turkdean Roman Villa underground had been suspected for some time before the archaeological investigation began. A local farmer and an archaeologist invited the team of researchers after observing the patterns on the pasture that served as a sign that the area used to be an ancient settlement (Time Team S05-E04 Turkdean,. Gloucestershire, 2015). Before the arrival of the investigators such methods as observation of the site during different periods were used – the farmer had noticed that the patterns are especially visible during dry summers, and the archaeologist had observed the area from the helicopter to get a full picture of the size of the building underground and take an aerial photograph. Further, the Time Team visually evaluated the area and then surveyed it for the geophysical data so that the objects that are not visible in the landscape marks could be noticed.

The archaeologists scanned the area and collected geophysics data. This method is highly useful in archaeology and some other studies as it allows seeing the objects covered with layers of the ground of water and creating a clear picture for the future excavation. As a research tool, geophysics is crucial for the scientists because it ensures that they work having a clear idea of the size and shape of the objects they search for and helps them avoid making errors, wasting time digging in the wrong place, or damaging the artifacts while unearthing them. In the case of Turkdean Roman Villa, the picture was extremely clear so that the scientists could see the outlay of the buildings underground and even detect their functions (gatehouse, gardens, corridors, rooms (Time Team S05-E04 Turkdean,. Gloucestershire, 2015).

The next step the archeologists took after the geophysical analysis is creating two trenches on different sides of the villa to see its walls. Obviously, the data was rather precise because right after the first layer of the ground is scraped off, the scientists find the building and begin to unearth it (Time Team S05-E04 Turkdean,. Gloucestershire, 2015).. At the same time, the geophysics results and picture are analyzed in comparison with other Roman Villas to determine the significance of this find. Turkdean Villa is rather large compared to other findings of this type. Besides, the excavations on the site provided with archaeologists with some smaller artifacts such as coins and fragments of pottery from the time when the villa was inhabited. These objects helped the researchers to place the settlement in the context of history. According to their primary evaluation the pottery dated back to the 4th century A. D (Holbrook, 2004: 54). The investigation also gave the investigators some clues as to the background of the owners of the villa.

As the excavations went on, the archaeologists began to combine several investigation methods. Some members of the team boarded a helicopter for another aerial observation of the site that revealed more crop marks; another scientist went to consult the historians about the materials and manufacture techniques of the 4th century to re-create some artifacts, the rest of the team expanded the existing trenches and started new ones. The cooperative effort produced positive results and made the archaeologists aware that the villa they excavate was twice larger than they had anticipated initially. The trenches were extremely helpful as they provided the archaeologists with proof of disproof of their guesses.

Due to the trenches the investigators found out if the buildings and walls they had thought were there were in place. The trenches also offered a clearer idea of the functions of the rooms (bathhouse, courtyard, buildings for cattle or slaves). The investigators continued to compare the excavated villa with the previous findings and quickly realized that Turkdean buildings were different in their outlay from other Roman villas. The expansion of the trenches also generated more evidence and hints as to who lived in the villa and when. Findings such as paint and patterns on the walls and an iron with a word Vterefelix on it buckle contributed to the overall picture of the villa’s owners as a very wealthy family (Holbrook, 2004: 60).

Finally, the excavations of the next year (1998) focused on the detached part of the villa that had remained unnoticed previously (Holbrook 2004: 51). More geophysics data discovered that the villa was not only extremely large but that it had some scattered buildings around. That way, five new trenches were added that targeted the investigation of the nature of the additional buildings, the date when they were in use, and their function. One can notice that the excavation of 1998 involved some digger machines that had not been employed earlier; they speeded up the investigation. Just like with the excavation of 1997, the theory and the evidence build up step by step, and the initial guesses are often proved wrong and each building or finding turns out different from the anticipated description.

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The scientists relied heavily on the geophysics of the area and the traces on the gradiometer prints and pictures. Also, the investigation involved a lot of theorizing built on the previous experiences and knowledge of the archeologists. In other words, being able to refer to buildings to a particular era in the British history and the culture of the time made the scientists capable of guessing what kind of structure and elements it could have had. Besides, the surrounding geography of the area allowed them to suspect that shines and places of worship were a part of the excavated villa that further revealed a network of channels supplying the buildings with water (Holbrook, 2004: 70).

To sum up, the investigation and excavation of Turkdean Roman Villa in Gloucestershire began with a visual observation of the parchmarks on the grass. The excavations that followed the aerial examination of the site involved such methods as geophysics surveys and scanning of the area. Excavating the buildings, the archaeologists built theories based on the gradiometer prints and created approximate plans and drawings of the buildings based on the findings. The smaller evidence unearthed at the site provided the scientists with the knowledge about the era when the villa was inhabited, who lived there, and for what the buildings were used.


Time Team S05-E04 Turkdean,. Gloucestershire, video record, Web.

Holbrook, N 2004, ‘Turkdean Roman Villa, Gloucestershire: Archaeological Investigations 1997-1998’, Britannia, vol. 35, pp. 39-76.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Turkdean Roman Villa's Excavation Process." January 1, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/turkdean-roman-villas-excavation-process/.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Turkdean Roman Villa's Excavation Process'. 1 January.

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