Ancient Roman villa with peculiar artifacts found at Bronze Age site in England.

April 4, 2024

Archaeologists have unveiled a spectacular find in Grove, Oxfordshire, England: an exceptionally adorned Roman villa complex discovered within the Brookside Meadows during excavations.

The complex, boasting buildings dating back to the late first and second centuries, features four colossal columns or post bases, marking among the largest from Britain’s Roman era. Adorned with intricately painted plaster and mosaic floors, the site showcases fragments of a grand hall-like structure, suggesting internal colonnades and expansive interiors. Among the unearthed artifacts are peculiar items such as miniature axes and scrolls, potentially indicative of ritualistic practices.

Ancient Roman villa with peculiar artifacts found at Bronze Age site in England.

A collection of empty rolled-up lead scrolls, which may have been curse scrolls. Photo: Red River Archaeology Group.

Louis Stafford, a senior project manager at Red River Archaeology Group (RRAG), remarks on the significance of the find, emphasizing the dominance of the villa complex within the local landscape.

The villa’s central hall, believed to precede adjacent structures, likely evolved as the owners’ prosperity grew. Francesca Giarelli, the site director, notes the multi-level construction of one building, hinting at the site’s evolving architectural complexity.

Ancient Roman villa with peculiar artifacts found at Bronze Age site in England.

A horse-head brooch or belt buckle uncovered at Brookside Meadows. It was dated to AD 350-450 Photo: Red River Archaeology Group.

Artifacts recovered from the site offer a glimpse into Roman life, ranging from elaborate painted plaster and mosaic tiles to hypocaust box flue tiles, coins, and jewelry. Notably, a horse-headed belt buckle dating from 350-450 C.E. sheds light on interactions between late Romans and early Anglo-Saxons, underscoring the site’s historical importance.

Giarelli explains that Roman villas served as more than mere residences, often overseeing agricultural activities and infrastructure maintenance. Repurposed areas, like an oven crafted from melted Roman materials for cereal and hops drying, exemplify function over opulence.

Ancient Roman villa with peculiar artifacts found at Bronze Age site in England.

The complex comprised numerous structures, with one likely featuring multiple stories. Photo: Red River Archaeology Group / SUMO GeoSurveys.

The discovery of tightly wound lead scrolls resembling Roman “curse tablets” adds another layer of intrigue, hinting at potential ritualistic practices within the estate.

Campbell Gregg, the development company’s managing director, expresses hope that ongoing research will enrich local understanding of the region’s rich historical tapestry.