Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Monday, 9 November 2009
Ceredigion's first Roman villa?
Below ground scan of the Roman villa
This below-ground scan reveals the structure of the possible Roman villa

A major new Roman site in mid Wales is discovered in Hidden Histories which can be seen on BBCiPlayer until Tuesday, 16 February.

The Trawsgoed basin in Ceredigion could be a site that will rewrite Roman history.

As an aerial photograph showing unusual rectangular crop marks reveals, the seemingly empty landscapes of today are actually full of hidden life.

Could this have been the site of a classical winged Roman villa?

It has all the hallmarks of a classic Roman villa with three main rooms, two projecting wings and a corridor or veranda at the front
Dr Toby Driver

Archaeologists working for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, in Aberystwyth, think they have discovered Ceredigion's first Roman villa.

Unusual markings in summer crops first seen during aerial photography in the dry summer of 2006 showed a great rectangular structure, and footings of a simple rectangular building, buried below fields near Trawsgoed Roman fort.

This summer the site was investigated during filming for the second series of 'Hidden Histories', following the day to day work of the Royal Commission.

Huw Edwards
The series follows the work of the Aberystwyth-based body

Archaeologists surveyed the entire field using a magnetometer device, used to scan for hidden structures beneath the soil just like the geophysics of the 'Time Team'.

When the results were downloaded the tell-tale floor plan of a Roman villa was revealed.

Archaeologist Dr Toby Driver said: "This is a hugely exciting discovery. After a long hot day in the field we were very surprised to see the buried floor plan of a substantial building on our computer screen.

"It has all the hallmarks of a classic Roman villa with three main rooms, two projecting wings and a corridor or veranda at the front.

"We will not know whether or not the building is definitely Roman until we excavate."

Roman villas are still very rare in the western part of mid Wales.

South Wales has several Roman villas, but in mid Wales the land was still a 'military zone' for much of the Roman occupation.

Dr Jeffrey Davies, a Roman specialist recently retired from Aberystwyth University, excavated at the nearby Trawsgoed Roman fort, now buried beneath the Trawsgoed estate, and showed there was a flourishing civil settlement or village outside its walls.

Aerial view of the site
The programme-makers viewed the site from the air

Yet, both fort and settlement were abandoned by around AD 130, only 60 or so years after the Wales was brought under Roman control.

A Roman villa would have been like a wealthy country estate or a grand farm, and would only have been established in peaceful countryside. Quite what a villa was doing out here in mid Wales is still a mystery.

Dr Davies and Gerald Morgan helped the Royal Commission with the survey, along with David Hopewell of the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust who is a specialist in magnetometry survey.

The landowner of the site kindly allowed permission to carry out the work.

The story of the discovery of the Roman site is broadcast on BBC iPlayer until Tuesday, 16 February.

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