A British family made an astounding archaeological discovery on accident. Below the grounds surrounding the Irwin family’s farmhouse hid an “extraordinarily well-preserved” Roman villa, which they discovered only after they decided they no longer wanted to play ping pong in the dark. Father Luke Irwin, a rug designer, called electricians out to lay underground cable to provide lighting in their barn, and while drilling, the electricians hit a Roman mosaic.

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Irwin immediately halted the renovations and called Historic England. A team of archaeologists confirmed that the mosaic was part of an incredibly vast Roman villa, built between 175 and 220 AD. The villa likely collapsed around the fifth century, and probably no one has touched it since.

Related: UK resident accidentally discovers ancient Anglo-Saxon settlement

Archaeologist David Roberts of Historic England said, “This is a hugely valuable site with incredible potential. The discovery of such an elaborate and extraordinarily well-preserved villa, undamaged by agriculture for 1,500 years, is unparalleled in recent years and it gives us a perfect opportunity to understand Roman and post-Roman Britain.”

A team began excavations and found plenty of evidence that the villa owners were wealthy. They uncovered old oyster shells which would have had to be transported from the sea several miles away in barrels of salt water. The materials used to build the villa appear costly, and the researchers have identified stone that came from “at least 13 different British quarries.” They believe this would have been the country house of a powerful person who also could have had another home in London.

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Researchers also connected pieces of the Irwin family’s everyday life, that they never suspected had historical significance, to the Roman era. The family was using a piece of stone on the property as a planter for geraniums, but the archaeologists actually identified it as an ancient child’s coffin. The Purbeck marble foundation of the family’s home could be Roman as well.

Archaeologists believe that the Roman villa could clarify a murky period of history. One truly curious thing about the villa is that it wasn’t torn down after the Roman empire collapsed. Further research could help us understand how the people then inhabiting Britain, so far from the center of the Roman Empire, reacted when it fell.

Via The Guardian

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