This season has been full of surprises, and the greatest surprise of all came on the penultimate day. There is another Roman building underlying the bath-house at Truckle Hill. This was a completely unexpected and very exciting discovery.
It had been difficult to explain the painted plaster wall outside the caldarium (hot room) but a new wall immediately outside the wall of the tepidarium (warm room) is clearly part of the same, earlier building. The excavated section includes a window opening, and the masonry work is of very high quality. This wall had also been decorated with painted plaster.
This first building was clearly luxuriously appointed with a mosaic floor (a small section of floor was found in situ at the base of the painted wall).
Work has continued all week in the first frigidarium (cold bath) and the remains of the steps down into the bath have been uncovered. At more than 1.5 m it was much deeper than expected and would have been more of a plunge pool than a bath. Large pieces of roof tile from the collapsed roof lay at the bottom of the frigidarium, together with blocks of tufa which had formed the ceiling.
Groups from the South Wiltshire Young Archaeologists’ Club and from Hardenhuish School have been out to help excavate the area at the end of the valley. It now seems almost certain that this was the building site where large quantities of mortar and plaster were produced for the bath-house, its predecessor and the villa. This is exciting – it is unusual to find evidence of a Roman building site.
We end the season with lots of new questions. What was the connection between the first Roman building, the bath-house and the villa on the top of the hill? How large was the first building, when was it built and what was it used for? These are the questions which we hope to investigate next year.
We have many people to thank at the end of our 2008 season. First of all Mr Antony Little who has so generously allowed us to investigate the site. We would also like to thank Wiltshire County Council Archaeology Service and North Wiltshire District Council Community Awards for helping to fund this project and last but not least, the many volunteers who have helped in the excavation.
Tufa: soft limestone rock which forms beside water saturated with carbonates. Tufa is still produced in streams nearby.