research excavation

Three trenches were excavated in June and July 2022 to contextualise the famous mosaic by improving knowledge and understanding of the Roman remains at Hinton St Mary.

The locations of the 3 trenches were informed by the results of 2021’s archaeological evaluation, as well as the 1964 excavation and 1996 geophysical surveys.

Much more is now known about this part of the settlement at Hinton St Mary in the Roman period:

    • The room with the Chi-Rho mosaic was not connected to other rooms, or buildings, on its SW and SE sides;
    • The SE corner of the room with the Chi-Rho mosaic was connected to a boundary wall separating two cobbled surfaces (1 certainly an external area, the other only possibly so);
    • A c. 34 m long rectangular building was located some 8 m to the SW of the mosaic room. Its simple plan included a range of rooms and an external portico. A mosaic covered the northern end room’s floor;
    • Coins suggest the Roman buildings were constructed from c. 330-340 and occupation seems to have continued until at least the end of the 4th century.

Despite this significant progress in terms of generating new, more reliable, knowledge about Roman Hinton St Mary, much remains unknown and our understanding of the site is less well advanced. We do not know, for instance:

    • the plan of the Roman remains at Hinton St Mary, or if the settlement should be considered a Romano-British ‘villa’;
    • if the room with the Chi-Rho mosaic was connected to other rooms, or buildings, on its NW and NE sides;
    • how people would have entered, or used, the 2 parts of the mosaic room
    • the extent of the area enclosed by the boundary wall;
    • how the long rectangular building was used (though the difference between floor of the two excavated rooms suggest multiple uses and functions);
    • the extent of the cobbled area between the boundary wall in the NE (in Trench 3) and the long rectangular building in the NW (in Trench 2). Evaluation trenches excavated in 2021 indicate an extensive open cobbled area, intersected with drains and possibly buildings too;
    • when the buildings went out of use and under what circumstances
    • the religious and historical context of the Chi-Rho mosaic.

The 2022 season was a collaborative research, training and engagement excavation.

Prof. Keith Wilkinson (University of Winchester), carried out a Ground Penetrating Radar survey during the excavation (also included in the training programme), the results of which potentially will provide answers to some of the remaining questions about Hinton St Mary in the Roman period. Other important questions, however, require another targeted excavation, particularly around the mosaic room and also in the extensive open area in the centre of the scheduled area, which the British Museum has proposed for 2023.

9 undergraduate archaeologists from Cardiff University joined the excavation, as well as a number of volunteers.

We also welcomed 33 pupils from 4 classes at Yewstock School in Sturminster Newton (Yewstock is a day community school for children from North Dorset with a range of learning difficulties and special educational needs), who came along for afternoons of trowelling, sieving, metal detecting and pot washing. Opportunities to take part in archaeological excavations are all too rare, especially for children such as those attending Yewstock School, and it was very special to see them enjoying being Real Archaeologists!

The excavation at Hinton St Mary was a collaborative research and training project led by Dr Peter Guest (Vianova Archaeology & Heritage Services), Dr Richard Hobbs (The British Museum) and Mike Luke (Albion Archaeology). We are very grateful once again to the residents of Hinton St Mary for their continued interest and support. The 2022 season’s Interim Report is available to download here.

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