Mysterious Roman villa reveals its secrets

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A unique cut-glass bowl and evidence of a roof covered in thousands of stone slates have been uncovered at a remote Roman villa.

The striking artefacts were found at the mysterious site in Abermagwr, Wales, which was built around 1,800 years ago. 

They shed new light on an area thought to be a militarised zone with little interaction between Romans and locals, who resented occupation by the invaders.

It was inhabited until around AD 330 when it was abandoned following a catastrophic fire.

A cooking pot dropped on the kitchen floor was never picked, up showing the urgency of the evacuation. 

Roman villas are not common in Wales and just over 30 known or possible villas are known and these are mostly in the south and east of the country. 

The villa was first discovered by aerial photography in 2006 and excavations at the site began in 2010.

It was revealed that it was established around AD 230 – at least 100 years after a nearby Roman fort was abandoned following a ‘catastrophic fire’.

‘A cooking pot dropped on the kitchen floor was never picked up, showing the urgency of the evacuation,’ explained the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales in a statement.

Now a series of intriguing artefacts have been uncovered at the site, according to the final excavation report in the journal Archaeologia Cambrensis.

Fragments of a Roman cut-glass vessel, similar to a small bowl, is described as the ‘star find’ of the dig.

The Royal Commission described the ornate find as ‘an extraordinary item of luxury for this modest villa’.

It is believed to have been used for mixing wine and water at grand dinner parties. 

Experts also analysed pieces of the villa’s roof, estimating that more than 6,600 stone slates weighing up to 23 tonnes were used for the building.

The discoveries give fresh insight into the Romanisation of the rural west Wales landscape almost two millennia ago. 

There is evidence for partial re-occupation of the villa ruins sometime in late-Roman or post-Roman times, but in recent centuries the building was systematically robbed of building stone and eventually forgotten in the landscape.

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