Time Team find villa in Sharnbrook

Luton Today

A Roman villa has been unearthed by a local group of archaeologists with help from experts on the hit television series Time Team.

The Channel 4 programme’s expert squad of historians and surveyors visited Colworth Science Park in Sharnbrook for the new 2009 series of the show and, together with the Colworth Archaeological Society (CAS), made some surprising finds.

Archaeologists were able to confirm a grand villa complex once stood on the Colworth site and found evidence of high society, including coins, fragments of glass wine goblets and jewellery.

But the villa’s discovery began posing more questions than answers.
Loyd Wix, who works at Colworth Science Park and was a co-founder of CAS, became the star of the show, working alongside the Time Team regulars to unravel the mystery.

He said: “The site is very unusual for north Bedfordshire, posing the question as to why such a significant Roman building should be placed in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest major Roman road.

“Bedfordshire as a county is fairly poorly represented in terms of Roman finds compared with the likes of Northamptonshire, but we believe the reason Colworth is here is that it is the narrowest point between the Nene and Ouse Valleys and was important because of its preeminence to the rivers rather than the roads.”

The producers of Time Team contacted Bedfordshire County Council’s archaeological officer Martin Oake, who recommended the Sharnbrook site as a possible location for the programme.

Artefacts, including the only recorded find of a Roman false tooth made from a copper alloy, have been turning up around Colworth Science Park for the past century, but this is the first time a professional dig has been carried out.

The Time Team’s work concluded that a large stone villa approximately 20 by 20 metres was built on the site, with a number of wooden outbuildings.

Evidence of two Iron Age round houses was also uncovered, along with a large quantity of pre-historic pottery and worked flint, proving the site has been in use for more than 2,500 years.

Mr Wix added: “What was amazing about the dig was you had a whole group of people who did not know each other and yet in a short period of time were all contributing and working together. What started as organised chaos got a rhythm of its own.

“One of the questions still unanswered is what was the villa’s function? There were a lot of timber buildings in the complex that there was not time to explore and more fields we did not have time to dig.

“This building was there for a purpose, it was not just built because they wanted somewhere to live.”

Mr Wix added: “One probable function is it was the centre of operation for a much bigger estate. It could be where they collected taxes, which is why there were so many coins found.

“We also found perhaps the most impressive assemblage of Roman military fittings in Bedfordshire, with cavalry equipment from the early Roman period to equipment worn by militia when the empire fell apart.

“No matter which period of history you are interested in, we have archaeology to interest you.”

The CAS is now hoping to secure funding from organisations like the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out further excavations on the site.

The Time Team episode, entitled The Mystery Of The Ice Cream Villa, because several members of CAS work in ice cream production, can be seen on Channel 4 on Sunday, February 22, at 5.40pm.

Teachers have a fortnight to comment on new Latin qualification

WJEC

How to get a Latin qualification of equivalent difficulty to a GCSE in other subjects? With elite schools insisting that Latin GCSE remain as hard as it is, the GCSE route is blocked. The alternative is here:

WJEC is pleased to announce the development of a range of Level 2 qualifications in Latin, for first teaching from September 2009. Working with subject specialist advice from the University of Cambridge School Classics Project, we are creating three qualifications to broaden the range of assessment options available to teachers at Key Stage 4 and thereby help you to increase the number of students who study Latin to examination level in your school or college.

The Latin Literature specification is here, and the language specification is here.

This could be another step on the road to bring Latin back from the brink of extinction. The large number of comprehensive schools that now offer Latin would have a qualification that their pupils could realistically aim for.

Do visit the site and add your comments before the end of the month.

Teachers have a fortnight to comment on new Latin qualification

WJEC

How to get a Latin qualification of equivalent difficulty to a GCSE in other subjects? With elite schools insisting that Latin GCSE remain as hard as it is, the GCSE route is blocked. The alternative is here:

WJEC is pleased to announce the development of a range of Level 2 qualifications in Latin, for first teaching from September 2009. Working with subject specialist advice from the University of Cambridge School Classics Project, we are creating three qualifications to broaden the range of assessment options available to teachers at Key Stage 4 and thereby help you to increase the number of students who study Latin to examination level in your school or college.

The Latin Literature specification is here, and the language specification is here.

This could be another step on the road to bring Latin back from the brink of extinction. The large number of comprehensive schools that now offer Latin would have a qualification that their pupils could realistically aim for.

Do visit the site and add your comments before the end of the month.

Peter Wiseman on the Roman Republic

The only drawback to Prof-Emeritus Peter Wiseman’s new book ‘Remembering the Roman People’ is the £55 price-tag. Otherwise it looks fascinating. Wiseman, according to the publisher (OUP) tries to get beyond Cicero and the Optimates to discover how “the People had a coherent political ideology of its own.”

Peter Wiseman’s great attraction for me has always been his gift for building up a picture of some person or part of the ancient world using the most diverse evidence, and presenting the result in a readable way.

Roll on the paperback.

For teaching Masada (CLC stage 29)

There have been several posts on the OCR Classics Community about AVA to back up the teaching of Stage 29 of the Cambridge Latin Course. The most recent informs that there is a DVD of the Peter O’Toole 1981 miniseries. I’ve just been nosing around, and Amazon advertises it here. It’s reduced from £20 to £13.

There is another version of the DVD mentioned, but it is labelled Region 1, which I think is North America. It is possible to set your laptop to Region 1, but it would be a bit of a fiddle setting and resetting it, so probably better to pay the extra £2 for the UK version.

The only problem with using this is that it is quite engrossing – and long (don’t know how long exactly, but it first came out on 3 VHS tapes). So you have to be very disciplined about exactly what you show in class, or no other work will be done for weeks! Perhaps arranging an out-of-school viewing would be possible.