Boxford 2017 Part II: First findings

So, the big day was on us. Volunteers started arriving, the finds processing tables all set out in eager anticipation, the digging equipment was conveniently to hand so people just needed to pick up a bucket (thanks Janet) and the excitement was mounting. Matt and Joy gave a quick introductory briefing and then we all grabbed a bucket and made our way up to Trench 4. This was the largest of the trenches and covered the entire footprint of a rectangular shaped building opposite the main villa. There was a lot of work to be done clearing back the soil after the mechanical digger’s initial clearance, but everyone was in good spirits and the weather behaved.

Within an hour, two of the best small finds had been found! This was going to be a doddle if the finds were popping out this quickly! Firstly, an eagle eye spotted a tiny line of green stuck in mud caked onto a large piece of flint. After much careful teasing away of mud it could be seen that the green was in fact a very small Roman copper bracelet. The whole flint was removed with the bracelet attached and taken down to the finds tent. There I picked up the gauntlet and volunteered to extricate the bracelet from the stone. It appeared to be intact and was a very delicate job slowly picking away tiny flecks of mud with a dental probe until the seal was broken and the piece could be carefully lifted off. I felt rather lightheaded doing this then realised it was probably because I wasn’t actually breathing whilst working! It was a beautiful little piece that would have belonged to a small child. The sprung design meant it would have been stretched to fit over the hand then relaxed back to its closed state once on the wrist. I’m sure there would have been either a tearful toddler or a grumpy mummy when this was lost.

Bracelet shows up
Bracelet shows up
Bracelet on a lump of flint
Bracelet on a lump of flint

The second find which followed in quick succession was a nice copper alloy coin of Constantius II.  What a great start.

Coin of Constantinus II
Coin of Constantinus II

Just when we thought it couldn’t be going any better what happened next took us all by surprise. Let’s give this a bit of background. Following our discovery of the large Roman villa just up the road at Hoar Hill through geophysics, there was a bit of a running joke between Andrew and Matt. Andrew would say “come on Matt, you’re the professional, find us a mosaic” and every year Matt would reply “Ok, be patient, I know it’s here somewhere” or words to that effect. We heard the joke in 2013, 2015 and 2016. However, In 2017 Andrew wasn’t well at all having severe chest pain and pneumonia but he still made it up to the site to make sure Matt didn’t forget to keep looking.

Well, whilst all our volunteers are busy cleaning back the large Trench 4 there’s a mobile phone call from Matt who’s across the field supervising Scud who was removing earth from Trench 3 over the villa. “Come and see what I’ve found”. He looked pretty excited to say the least by the time we got over to see him. We were greeted with “You’ll never believe it” and he pointed down at a small patch of ground delicately cleaned by JCB (!) and grinned. “We’ve found it. We’ve got our mosaic!!!”…

Fragment of the mosaic with a trowel as scale
Fragment of the mosaic