STANWICK Roman Villa D AVID Neal, of the Central Excavation Unit, has begun digging a new Roman villa by dis¬ covering three mosaics and an in¬ scription. The villa is at Stanwick near Wellingborough in North¬ amptonshire, adjacent to the small town of Raunds, where the North¬ amptonshire Unit has excavated a Saxon/Medieval settlement (CA 75). Recently the CEU and the North¬ amptonshire Unit have been con¬ ducting an extensive survey of the whole area, and the villa at Stanwick was discovered as part of the Raunds survey.
The main building is of the winged corridor variety, and when the topsoil was removed from the south end, three mosaics were revealed. The large mosaic is in the end room of the main block, and consists of a scheme of interlaced circles with guilloche inserts. David Neal, who is one of our foremost authorities on Roman mosaics, says that the design is a common type, though the execution is superior to many, for it is worked in fine tesserae: usually interlaced circle designs are in large coarse tesserae. Adjacent to it, in the projecting wing room, is another mosaic, showing a scheme of large squares tangent to smaller tilted squares, with lozengestars in the interspaces—again a common type. The unusual mosaic is the third one which is set at the end of the corridor. This is a hitherto unique design, consisting of several large circles separated by smaller circles, forming concave-sided octagons. All the mosaics, however, appear to be contemporary, and should date to around 350, and are typical of this region, that is they fit into David Smith's "Water Newton" school.
The prize find so far has been the inscription, found in a feature cutting the large mosaic. Inscriptions are rare 48
on villa sites, and when found they often consist merely of a fragment of a single letter. This one is compara¬ tively garrulous consisting of frag¬ ments of four lines, though admit¬ tedly no single word can be made out. Originally it was part of a classy inscription, with well cut and well formed letters, though comparatively small ones. The first line reads OD, and Mark Hassall of the Institute of Archaeology, London, suggests that this could form part of the word QUOD (because). The second line reads NORAT which, if one plays the game of making up the word, could make up the word HONORATUS. It is the third line which provided the excitement, for it reads ISCHO, the H and O being ligatured together, the O being set round the horizontal of the H like a gymnast on a bar. When it was first discovered they were very excited that SCHO was part of SCHOLA and they had found a school, but they then realised that there was no gap between the "F" and the SCHO. so it is apparently all one word, in which case Mark Hassall suggests it could form part of a Greek name, which would presumably im¬ ply a Greek freedman. The fourth line reads NUS—which is presumably the end of any Roman name you like to mention. It is all very tantalising, but alas is not quite enough to interpret: David Neal will have to go back and dig up some more of it.
Stanwick is now to be part of a major long-term excavation project. So far they have only dug one end of the villa, and only the latest levels of it, so there is still the other end of the villa and all the earlier levels to be excavated. However magnetic pros¬ pecting has revealed that both in front of and behind the villa there are more buildings. Furthermore, the adjacent field to the side of the villa has been trenched and numerous walls have been discovered, suggest¬ ing a very considerable cluster of outbuildings. Indeed this may have been a considerable settlement, for a Roman road was found running through this area heading straight towards the River Nene. At the river, excavations have revealed evidence of a 30cm square sleeper beam revetting a ditch close to the river bank. Residual remains suggest that the settlement covers the whole of the Roman period, with Iron Age remains beneath.
The whole area is due to be destroyed by gravel digging: planning permission has already been given, but the digging is not due to start for several years, giving the archaeolo¬ gists plenty of time to mount a long-term rescue/research project. Future excavations at the villa will thus be part of the Raunds Area Project, which will consider the archaeology of the landscape as a whole, starting with a barrow cemetery, and looking at the Iron Age, Roman, Saxon and Medieval settlement of the area. Source: David Neal, Fortress House, 14 Savile Row, London W1X 2HE
Right. The three mosaics excavated at the Stanwick Roman villa. This is the left hand end of a winged corridor villa: the left mosaic is in the projecting wing room, the mosaic at the back is at the left end of the main block, while the rather fragmentary mosaic in front of it was in the corridor itself