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The Roman Villa at Vacone

Roman Villa at VaconeOur department leads premier archaeological efforts in Greece and in Roman Morocco. New lecturer Dylan Bloy adds another dimension with his work in peninsular Italy.

More than 50 undergraduate and graduate students joined an international staff of 16 archaeologists for the seventh excavation season at a Roman villa site near Vacone, Italy, under the auspices of the Upper Sabina Tiberina Project. The two field school sessions included students principally from the sponsoring institutions, Rutgers University and the University of Alberta, though several other North American universities, including UT, were also represented.

This season’s two field seasons totaled seven weeks in the field, producing important progress and discoveries in several areas of the villa. The team investigated the end of the eastern cryptoporticus, an underground concrete vault that formed the edge of the villa’s main terrace. They were delighted to find the well-preserved end of the L-shaped portico that ran atop the cryptoporticus, including a mosaic floor decorated with red squares set diagonally, wall plaster in situ with a painted garland, the stuccoed end of a pilaster and the base of the first column of the colonnade. Nearby, on top of a long brick-paved corridor that seems to date from the very end of the villa’s life in the third century CE, they found three child burials that had been cut through destruction layers and rested on the brick floor surface, bringing the total number of post-abandonment burials discovered on site to 10. One of the burials was particularly poignant; at the child’s shoulder, they found a bird, presumably a favorite pet that had been interred with the child. The burial with the best preservation was sampled for radiocarbon dating to see whether these burials also fit the time horizon of three previously dated burials, which show the villa ruins were being used for burials in the seventh and eighth century CE, the early medieval period of Lombard ascendancy.

Roman Villa at VaconeIn another area of the villa, they excavated a small bedroom wedged between two large reception rooms along the front portici of the villa. A clearly defined bed niche was set off from the rest of the room by a polychrome mosaic of grapevines, and the center of the room had a black and white mosaic of birds around a central krater depicted with grape vines all around it. Finally, in a separate area of the excavation, they found evidence of a bath complex. A floor in two separate rooms preserved the stacked bricks of the suspensurae that held up the floor of the bath, enabling heated air to circulate in between the stacks below the floor and warming the rooms above. The team is particularly interested in the ensuing season to continue the investigation of this early bath complex and to excavate the contents of a well identified in earlier seasons.

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