Boxford 2017 Part III: The dream come true

“We’ve found it. We’ve got our mosaic”. Matt shook Andrew’s hand “we’ve done it”. Everyone was super excited at this prospect and there was a lot of back slapping and hilarity. There indeed was a small area of terracotta tesserae still in situ which was the first time we had encountered anything like it. Poor Scud confided in us saying “Blimey, thought ‘e was gunna kiss me”. The tesserae were fairly large (roughly an inch) ceramic cubes and there didn’t seem to be any loose ones floating around (which must have been a relief to Scud). Whilst obviously delighted we did have to rein Matt back a little bit saying that we were really happy to have at last found a tessellated surface (we resisted the ‘m-word’) it may actually be part of a corridor or some other somewhat utilitarian construction. It did feel a bit mean to burst his bubble though. His enthusiasm couldn’t be dampened despite our prognosis and nothing would wipe that grin from his face. I think the bottle of red wine never stood a chance that night!

Matt smiling at the prospect of uncovering the mosaic
Matt smiling at the prospect of uncovering the mosaic

As the villa has been terraced into the hill that meant the deposits were shallow at one end (the tesserae end) and the other end was quite a lot deeper. Being careful, responsible and very well supervised archaeologists that meant we would have to be incredibly patient whilst each context was removed and recorded, speculating how wide the corridor was and whether anybody might have had holes in their toga pockets and dropped some convenient piece of dating evidence.

All things considered that was quite a good first day by anyone’s standards!

Day 2 and day 3 saw a lot more cleaning back away from the major source of excitement and sadly the finds rate didn’t continue as it had started in the first few hours but nevertheless some nice coins popped out, albeit from the spoil heap. Some small pieces of window and vessel glass appeared which told us we were on the site of a house that could afford glazing which was encouraging. Later in the day we started work on the villa trenches, mainly over Trench 1 which was at the north-west end of the house and Trench 2, the central area. There was a huge amount of collapsed building material here and despite the heavy rain, just under the surface was baked hard as concrete.

mosaic part revealed
Part of the mosaic revealed

By day 4 we thought it was time for a little more excitement and we weren’t to be disappointed. I’m not quite sure who it was that broke ranks and gave the ‘tessellated floor’ end of Trench 3 just a little tickle but they were rewarded by the sight of a very small strip of much smaller white tesserae, still in situ, with no loose ones kicking around. That grin was back. This changed the mindset of a few of us doubting Thomases pretty smartish. We were now prepared to admit that our rough and ready corridor was not a corridor after all and was in fact the border for something bigger and better. It was certainly now creeping towards the presence of an actual real mosaic. But there was still a tonne (literally) of rubble to clear before we could see if anything survived beneath it…