Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Henley Archaeological & Historical Group

MEMBERS enjoyed a talk called “Life and death in a Roman villa — Hambleden” by archaeologist Dr Jill Eyers, of Chiltern Archaeology, on February 7.

This was about excavations at Yewden Roman villa in Hambleden.

Once again, the lecture proved extremely popular with a capacity audience turning up to hear the story of the villa.

The modern history of the villa started with the discovery of an Iron Age ditch in a gravel quarry (by the present day car park) and a number of finds from the Roman period made by a Miss Glassbrook.

This was followed in 1912 by an excavation which exposed four major buildings together with minor structures and pits.

Unusually for the time, the exact location and depth of excavated finds was recorded carefully. This enabled Jill and her colleagues to re-analyse these finds.

Together with the use of aerial photographs, geophysics surveys and field walking allowed the original excavation to be reinterpreted.

One remarkable feature of the finds was the astonishingly large number of styli (Roman “pens”) found — far more than at any other villa.

This suggests that there was a great deal of bureaucratic activity at the site in Roman times, possibly to do with military supply and/or the transhipment of goods arriving along the River Thames by road towards Dorchester.

Human remains were also found on the site, including an exceptionally large number (97) of skeletons of new-born babies, which has been interpreted as evidence of infanticide. The motivation for this is still being debated.

There is more to learn from the site — perhaps we will be able to hear more from Jill in the future.

The group’s next meeting will be held on March 7 when Dr Dan Remenyi will give a talk called “Henley Management College — a world class pioneer in management education”.

Lectures are held monthly, from October to June, at King’s Arms Barn, usually on the first Tuesday of the month, starting at 7.45pm. Admission is free to members, £3 for non-members.

For more information, visit www.henley-on-thames

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