Take a break

Inspecting his plough the farmer quickly realised that the tiny coloured tiles, painted plaster and stonework he'd brought up weren't natural. He'd found something Roman. Fast forward to 1966 and enter Graham Thomas, a young PhD student at Oxford University. Graham was a committed Romanist and had heard about the discovery whilst working for Reading Museum. The museum seemed happy to sponsor an investigation and so, with a small team in tow, Graham began work on what became known as Dropshort Roman Villa.

Today the site at Dropshort is a still ploughed field and Roman material continues to appear from time to time. This might appear to be the end of the story, were it not for the fact that much of the work conducted by Graham Thomas in the 1960s has been lost. What remains is tantalising; Thomas's trench plans show decorated mosaics  but the location of the trenches is not recorded. Reading Museum still holds pottery from the site  some of it high status Samian ware  but where it was found remains a mystery. So just what does lie beneath the fields at Dropshort? The Time Team were determined to find out.

In 2012, over 40 years since the first excavations by Graham Thomas, English Heritage contacted Time Team with an amazing aerial photograph. This image showed a series of large ditches forming an enclosure surrounding... what? Natural geology appeared to be hiding whatever was inside. Surviving records from the 1960s suggested something out of the ordinary. High status finds, a location close to the river and a spring all pointed towards a Roman site of some significance. Add to this the fact that Dropshort is located just north of the Anglo Saxon royal centre of Sutton Courtenay and the team felt we might be on to something special...

Our aims at Dropshort were to solve the mysteries left by the lost records of the 1960s. If the site was a villa, how old was it? What had it been used for? Why was it so close to so many important sites? Could we be looking at a 'cult centre'? We had just three days to solve the mystery.... And you'll have to watch the programme to find out if we succeeded...