Thursday, April 4, 2019


AN enormous Roman villa that Hadrian and Antinous might have visited has been found beneath a field in Britain packed with trophies, including coins and boar tusks alongside a sarcophagus containing the skeletal remains of a unnamed woman.

Amateur detectorist and historian Keith Westcott discovered the ancient remains beneath a crop in a field near Broughton Castle near Banbury.

A team of archaeologists excavated the remains of the historic building, which is bigger than the mausoleum at the Taj Mahal and nearly as large as Buckingham Palace, as part of a four-month excavation project.

The foundations measure 85metre by 85metre (278ft x 278ft) ... the second largest ever discovered in Britain ... and date back to 99 AD.

The mausoleum at the Taj Mahal is 57metre x 57metre (187ft x 187ft).

The land previously belonged to Lord and Lady Saye and Sele, the parent of Martin Fiennes, who now owns the land.

He works as a principal at Oxford Sciences Innovation and is second cousin of British explorer Ranulph Fiennes and third cousin of actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes.

The new structure is believed to be the 2nd largest Roman villa ever found in Britain, behind only the Fishbourne Palace in West Sussex, which dates back to 75 AD was discovered in 1960.

Mr Westcott, 55, decided to investigate the sites after being told by local farmer John Taylor that he had ploughed his tractor into a large stone in 1963.

Mr Taylor said he saw a hole had been made in the stone and when he reached inside he pulled out a human bone.

Incredibly, the farmer had uncovered a sarcophagus of a high status woman who had died in the 3rd or 4th century.

Fascinated by the story, Mr Westcott set off in October 2016 to explore the site properly.

His eureka moment came when he discovered a 1,800 year-old tile from a hypocaust system, which was an early form of central heating used in high status Roman buildings.

It was then he knew that whatever ruins lay beneath the soil were of "unimaginable quality and significance."

Along with a team from Oxford Archaeology, Westcott spent two weeks on the field in April this year, digging five trial trenches to gauge the scope of the remains.

Using technology such as magnotomety ... which acts like an x-ray through soil ... walls, room outlines, ditches and other infrastructures was uncovered.

The villa accommodation would have included a bath-house with a domed roof, mosaics, a grand dining room, kitchens and a living accommodation.

In total 178 items of significance were uncovered, cleaned and cataloged including coins bearing the mythological twins Romulus and Remus as well as bone china ... and even the tusk of a wild boar (photo above left).

Westcott, who is director of The Association of Detectorists, said: ‘It is truly is a remarkable find of incredible historical significance.

"We have only uncovered about one per cent so the possibilities of what we still might find are endless. The only bigger one is at Fishbourne Palace in West Sussex ... but that is a palace and we think that parts of it could date back to the 2nd Century."

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