The Virtual Museum is now able to bring you images of the archaeological dig now underway in Keynsham Cemetery on the site of a possible Roman temple.
It’s where – in the 1920’s – that mosaics from buildings making up a substantial Roman settlement were first discovered by workmen digging graves.
Known as the Durley Hill Roman Villa archaeologists revealed a building positioned around the largest court of any rural Roman structure in the country and embellished with exotically designed rooms.
Members of the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society and the Association for Roman Archaeology have now dug a broad trench across part of the buried remains after extensive geophysical surveys indicate a building which may prove to be a detached temple fronting the great villa building.
Bristol-based Anthony Beeson – who is an acknowledged Classical iconographer and an expert on Roman and Greek architecture – has been to see the excavation and has sent the Virtual Museum of Bath this report.
“The Keynsham complex is the most architecturally elaborate known from Roman Britain. It contained many fine mosaics including a central rosette of a quality unsurpassed in Roman mosaics in Britain and now in Keynsham’s One Stop Centre.
The purpose of the new excavation is to learn more about a presumed building, that has appeared on geophysical surveys of the site, that lies at the bottom of the hill, below the main complex. It may have been a temple.
The present small excavation has uncovered a substantial unmortared wall faced with ashlar blocks and resting on a foundation of smaller stones founded in the natural clay.
At the end of the ashlar wall what appears at present to be a blocking of an entrance has been discovered. Unworked, large stones were used for blocking – including one featuring a large ammonite for which Keynsham is famous.
The town itself is named after St Keyna who is said to have turned the numerous serpents in the area (ie Ammonites) into stone.
A new sounding has been started this afternoon to ascertain if the rough stones do actually form the blocking of an entrance, or something else, and if the wall continues in the same direction and is made of ashlar blocks.
A lack of roofing materials and nails at present suggests that the structure was unroofed. Some ancient temples were unroofed courtyards around a sacred pool or tree.
There have been few finds so far beyond some pottery, animal bone and mosaic tesserae. The latter (of all qualities) have almost certainly washed down from the rooms in the main complex”
Thanks for that Anthony. You can follow the dig via http://www.facebook.com/durleyhill