Olive oil and dog paw prints: Archaeologists say villa discovery reveals Wales's Roman trading links

By Ben Miller | 08 June 2015

Brick bearing dog paw print and coins minted in France and Italy found in Roman Wales

A photo of an illustration of a rural Roman villa
Archaeologist Toby Driver's reconstruction of the Abermagwr Roman Villa, found in mid-Wales© Crown copyright: RCAHMW
Archaeologists studying a previously unknown villa, found beneath fields in Abermagwr in 2011 after cropmarks were spotted during an aerial survey, say social and economic conditions in Roman west Wales allowed high-status residents to build large homes within farmland estates.

No Romano-British villas had been found outside of south Wales before the summer survey in 2006. But analysis by Royal Commission experts led to a geophysical survey which revealed a large rectangular enclosure with a neat cobbled yard.

An overhead photo of archaeologists working at a trench site within fields
The excavation of the newly-discovered Roman villa in 2011© Crown copyright: RCAHMW
Part of the earliest known slate roof in the region was also found as part of excavations which have “radically altered” historical knowledge of Roman life in Wales, according to archaeologists who describe the villa as “relatively modest”.

A main block, the domus, was accompanied by three main rooms, a veranda, two projecting wings and a small room added at a later date to the rear of the building.

Vessels from English production centres such as Poole Harbour in Dorset, Oxfordshire and the Malvern Hills were unearthed alongside locally-produced pots, bowls and platters, fragments of Samian ware from Gaul and sherds from a southern Spanish amphorae used to transport olive oil.

Researchers believe the finds demonstrate “thriving” trade links between Ceredigion and the Roman world for three centuries.

A fine glass drinking vessel, gaming counters and a brick with a dog paw print have raised hopes that more villas could lie buried across the region, where archaeologists also found coins included a bronze depiction of Emperor Constantine I, minted in Lyon in 314 or 315, and a denarius of Severus Alexander, minted in Rome almost a century earlier.

The finds have gone on display at Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth.

  • Visit rcahmw.gov.uk and coflein.gov.uk. Dr Toby Driver, one of the archaeologists involved in the excavations, will lead a talk, Druids, Romans and Death: Exploring the Treasures of the Bowen Gallery at Ceredigion Museum, on July 23 at 11am. Telephone the Royal Commission on 01970 621200 for more details or to book.

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A photo of various Roman stones and artefacts inside a green and glass museum case
The finds have gone on display in a new exhibition at the Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth© Crown copyright: RCAHMW
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