This account of the first six seasons of the Danebuyy Environs Roman Project shows the potential still remaining in old sites dug over in the past when they are approached with new research questions in mind. The opportunity is short-lived. In a few more years many 117ill be ploughed almost to obliteration.
When the first trial trench was cut through the defences ofthe Iron Age hillfort ofDanebury in the summer of1969, frlv ofus thought that in 2003 lve would be preparing for our thirty-fifth season ofexcavations in the gentle rolling downland ofwestern Hampshire. Yet after 20 years ofdigging on Danebury itselfand a further eight years exploring other hon Age settlements in the immediate area, we are now deep into OU1·
third programme, focusing this time on the Roman rural settlement of the region. The Roman projectgrrlv naturally out ofour previous Iron Age worlz. And so the Danebury Environs Roman project was born.
Several Roman villas had already been explored in the area - famous sites Me Clanville and Thruxton - but most of the work had been done more than a hundred years ago and the information recorded was rather limited. 1M: decided therefore to revisit several 'villa'sites to put the old discoveries into a nrlv context, concentrating on questions ofcontinuity, and attempting to understand something of the economics ofthe developing farms. Another research theme foc~tsed on the nature of the villa society. To what extent did the architecture - and in particular the distinctive Hampshire vernacular - reflect the changing aspirations and fortunes ofthe inhabitants? In addition to all this we were also concerned to see the effects ofa century ofintensilJe cultivation on the surviving remains. It was an ambitious agenda. NoWy six years into the project and with four villas sampled, interesting insights begin to be reJJealed.
Tbe J't"llns e.,.ccnMted il1 tbis pm)ect were mostly based nrOlmd huge fJalls. Tbis is the east md ofthegreat hall at Houghton Down. Note the bath mite to tbe rigbt, inserted into the nisle.