Brandiers Farm, Roman tile kiln excavations: Week 2 highlights

Last week was the second week of this season’s Roman tile kiln excavations in Minety, Wiltshire, and it didn’t disappoint! Our volunteer team have uncovered loads of stamped tile highlights… We found the first complete ‘TPFA’ stamp from the entire site, more TPF and LHS tiles, paw prints, and even footprints too!

A very unusual potter’s signature or graffito was found in the kiln trench this week. 1,800 years ago a Roman potter stood right where we are, and scored this into the tile with their finger and fingernail, marking their work, either for ownership or payment (or both?). Pretty cool thought, really!

Peter and Rosanna discus the potter’s signature or graffito tile

A tile was also found with a small paw print! Originally thought to be a cat, it has now been revealed to be from a small dog. A deer print was discovered on a separate second tile. Site dogs Nero and Cola have been helping the team by reconstructing the moment!

Talking of animals, this week we found historical animal remains, when Celia discovered rib fragments in the fill of the kiln’s central flue. These are the first bones found during the excavation, and we’re excited to see if any more will be discovered.

Up in the settlement field, in Trench 9 (where Lee uncovered his silver halfpennies last week), Rob dug into the Roman enclosure ditch and immediately retrieved some decorated Samian! This suggests our theories of settlement activity may be correct, as Samian was used for eating and drinking rather than for storage or other more utilitarian purposes.

We hoped Trench 8 contained another kiln (wishful thinking!) but we’ve got something enigmatic instead. Hard digging by Lynda, Judith, Josh, and Lloyd revealed a compacted tile surface. At the start of the week we thought it could potentially be a path used by the potters to get around the site. Stone examples of Roman paths have been uncovered recently in Evesham, Worcestershire. However, the hard work of the volunteers has revealed it’s a significant ditch, jammed full of waster tiles. We’ll continue the digging here, to see whether the rich fill of tiles can teach us anything new about the life of the kiln, and if we can find any dateable material to help us better understand the purpose and life of the ditch.

Section through ditch in Trench 8
Section through ditch in Trench 8

Over in Trench 1, volunteer Bob has smashed it! He has dedicated himself to finding the proper back wall of the kiln since last week and, despite wasps, rain, and compacted hardcore, he’s made really neat work of it, and we now know the kiln’s length — thanks Bob!

Volunteer Bob excavated back wall of kiln
Volunteer Bob excavated back wall of kiln

The excavations at Brandiers Farm continue to pull up new and ecxiting finds, and the features continue to pose mysteries. But with the week closing some of these mysteries are starting to be resolved. Our work on the tile kiln will continue for the next two weeks, and you can follow the excavations live on Cotswold Archaeology’s social media channels!

This article was created by Work Experience students Rose Sinclair and Felicity Picknett-Powell, with help from Indie Jago (Assistant Outreach & Community Engagement Officer) and Rosanna Price (Digital Engagement Manager)

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