Roman Villa dig produces countless artefacts - scores of Time Team archeologists descend on the Banbury area this weekend for their first visit to the site near Broughton Castle

Specialists in many branches of archeology joined Time Team founder and producer, Tim Taylor, on a fascinating dig that has produced some impressive artefacts from beneath the north Oxfordshire soil.

Monday, 27th September 2021, 1:56 pm

The excavation, in a turnip field on the Broughton Castle estate, began in earnest on Friday and continues over the weekend, four years after it was discovered by Banbury historian and detectorist, Keith Westcott.

The iconic Time Team organisation has chosen to use the Broughton Roman Villa as its legacy project which will last for several years. Digital specialists are using data gathered using the very latest, state-of-the-art equipment to build a three-dimensional model of the villa which is thought to have been constructed in the second century and vacated in around the fourth century.

The villa is one of the largest ever discovered in Britain - only Fishbourne Palace is bigger. The Broughton building was almost the same size as Buckingham Palace. The story of its discovery was described in a Banbury Guardian feature in 2018. The first geophysics also showed the existence of an aisled hall - possibly a grain barn - measuring 25 x 15m to one side of the villa.

Time Team founder and producer Tim Taylor who has been presiding over the Roman Villa dig at Broughton this week. Picture by Kevin Smith

Mr Westcott - who has been made an official member of the Time Team - said at the time: "The more we’re finding out about this part of north Oxfordshire, we’re realising at the head of the triangle between Fosse Way, Akeman Street and Watling Street was a very important Roman area.”

Time Team's funding for the dig is being raised through crowdfunding on the Patreon site - https://www.patreon.com/TimeTeamOfficial - where fans can support the projects for a few pounds a month.

Those supporting Time Team in this way are receiving several videos and news updates a day during the digs and being part of the excitement of discoveries in the trenches and also in the tents, where experts are examining the finds and determining their age and origin from all areas of life in and around the villa.

Because of the exclusive nature of the Patreon fans' information the Banbury Guardian is not able to divulge details of the finds we witnessed while watching the activity yesterday (Saturday).

A view of the dig on Saturday showing the level of the slope on which the Roman Villa was built at Broughton. Picture by Kevin Smith

One element of the coverage outside the villa site was Prof Susannah Lipscomb's interview with Mr Westcott in the Great Hall of Broughton Castle, where he described how he discovered the Broughton Hoard - a collection of 16th and 17th century coins buried near the castle - and subsequently the Roman Villa.

Archeologists Lawrence Shaw and Derek Pitman (producers of a podcast called Career in Ruins) are the front-men for the site's 'Digwatch' video footage.

Mr Shaw said: "We've been going around meeting the old team and meeting the new Time Team specialists, exploring and sharing the archaeological experience over the three days we're here.

"On that first day, geophysics had to be completed - ground penetrating radar and magnetometry that inform the decision making. Henry Chapman had to go out with the GPS and locate where we wanted our trenches, locate where the old trenches (from the trial dig in 2018) would have been to make sure we didn't double up on a previously excavated area. And then as soon as the diggers got to site, they started pealing them back and revealing the amazing archaeology.

State-of-the-art data collection, such as this ground penetrating radar, has been critical to Time Team's underground picture of the Roman Villa remains. Picture by Kevin Smith

"In some spots there is quite significant depth of archeology which is going to be really interesting."

Mr Shaw said the naturally sloping features of the site determined the terraced nature of the courtyard villa. "It would have been a staggering building incorporating that slope and with the architecture of the building it would have had a huge impact," he said.

"What's really exciting about the data we're collecting is that we're feeding it all to our virtual reconstruction specialists, Time Team regulars archaeologist Brigid Gallagher and 3D reconstructor, Raysan al-Kubaisi who are making this fantastic reconstruction of the site, which looks absolutely stonking. It's massive. It's so intimidating and such a visual presence but also it highlights the terracing and the construction that would have gone in to creating a villa in that location."

Meet the Time Team experts and hear more about this year's digs on the YouTube channel here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwGigW6DH5E

The excavations are started using mechanical diggers on the Roman Villa site at Broughton. Picture by Kevin Smith

Those subscribing to the Patreon Time Team site will receive priority news of finds, discoveries and determination of the archeology but the footage will eventually be edited into programmes for the Time Team YouTube channel where the general public will be able to enjoy this extraordinary weekend at Broughton.

The Time Team camp for the duration of this week's dig, situated above the field under which the Roman Villa remains lie
A view of the Roman Villa site where the excavations have been going on over the weekend
Paul Booth, Oxford-based Roman archaelogist, examines one of the artifacts with Prof Carenza Lewis of Time Team