It has been a busy first week at the kiln site, we spent the first few days cleaning up the trenches and have now moved onto excavating the key features identified.
This excavation is being undertaken as part of the Nero & Silchester project, investigating the production of tiles stamped with the title of the Roman emperor Nero (AD. 54-68). Eleven such tiles have been found at several sites within the walls at Roman Silchester, providing tantalizing evidence for imperial involvement in construction at Silchester within 25 years of the initial Roman invasion of AD 43. The site was investigated during the 1920s by Lt. Col. Karslake during which he recovered a tile with “a round stamp in the centre with the legend NER. CL. CAE. AVG. GR., of much the same form but not identical with the stamp with the same legend which was discovered in 1903-4 in a deep latrine pit adjacent to the baths at CALLEVA”. In full the legend reads ‘Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus’.
From the first weeks’ excavation has we have recorded nearly 300 kilos of ceramic building material (CBM), which includes a large amount of over-fired and vitrified tile which have been exposed to extreme heat, much of this has been recovered from what appear to be waster dumps. The material also includes a number of particularly exciting pieces. There is one tile, with a stamp to the surface, whilst we cannot identify any letters within the stamp it is of the same size and form as the Nero-stamped tiles, and has been recorded as another example, taking the total to 13.
We have also found parts of a ceramic chimney, with elaborate pie-crust decoration and a large amount of relief-patterned tile, which has been keyed using a roller-stamp. The examples recovered so far all feature designs from the diamond-and-lattice group.
Another interesting tile is in the form of a roof tile, tegula, with a circular hole in the centre. These are thought to have been to provide a vent for smoke or to secure a chimney. We have only been able to trace references to two other examples from Roman Britain, so this is particularly exciting.
With all these interesting pieces include in the material from week one, we are really looking forward to see what week two brings. Keep up to date with our daily updates at twitter: @silchexcavation and on our facebook page: Silchester Archaeology.