The Roman period

Remains of the dark-earth showing in the upper layer of a pitRemains of the dark-earth showing in the upper layer of a pitPits and wells have destroyed nearly all traces of remains earlier than the medieval period. One that has survived is a small ‘island’ of so-called ‘dark-earth’. This deposit appears to cover the remains of Roman Winchester and may be soil that formed over the town when it fell out of use at the end of Roman rule in the early fifth century.
 
Photograph showing the Roamn cess pits and the alignment of the medieval tenamentsPhotograph showing the Roamn cess pits and the alignment of the medieval tenamentsSeveral cess pits have been found, running in a line north to south through the middle of the site. They lie half way between two Roman streets and either served a public building or, more likely, lay to the rear of the houses whch fronted the two streets. The pits are cut 5-6 metres deep into the underlying chalk and only one other like them has been found in Winchester.
 
The pits are an exciting source of evidence: as well as degraded human waste, they contain fragments of pottery, building materials and many animal bones.
 
A selection of finds from Jewry StreetA selection of finds from Jewry StreetSmall items have been found, such as bronze finger rings, a fine bone pin, tweezers and coins accidentally dropped into the pits nearly 2,000 years ago.
 
The most valuable information may well come from the smallest finds of all – the remains of mineralised seeds, fruit stones and insects. Calcium from the soil and phosphate from urine combine to form calcium-phosphate. It is this formation which is required for the seeds to become mineralised. Samples of soil are taken from site, then carefully processed and the seeds analysed by experts. This will give us more evidence of the diet and way of life in Roman Winchester.
 
samian dish with maker's stampsamian dish with maker's stamp One find of particular interest is a piece of fine pottery, of a type known as samian ware which was imported into Britain in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.
 
Mineralised seedsMineralised seedsWhat makes this piece so special is that it has a near complete maker’s stamp, SVRD--LVS.F. Research suggests that it is the mark of SVRDILLVS, a pottery maker who worked in Lezoux in central France between 90-150AD. The F at the end of the name stands for fecit, Latin for ‘made (it)’.
 
The piece of pottery is part of a shallow dish. Interestingly, scratch marks in the pedestal base of the dish suggest that after it was broken it was turned upside down and the base itself reused as a small dish.
 
Also uncovered was a nearly complete locally made pot and several examples of a type of pottery known as New Forest ware.