Archaeologists Rebury ‘First-of-Its-Kind’ Roman Villa

The ruins were originally uncovered in Scarborough, England, last year

Roman villa
Archaeologists found the ruins last year ahead of planned construction. © Maparch / Historic England

Ruins of a sprawling ancient Roman villa discovered in the United Kingdom have been reburied, just one year after their discovery was announced.

Historic England, a government preservation organization, hopes the move will safeguard the “first-of-its-kind” archeological site for future generations, reports BBC News.

The discovery last year delighted experts, who underscored its historical significance.

“These archaeological remains are a fantastic find and are far more than we ever dreamed of discovering at this site,” said Keith Emerick, inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England, in a statement last year. “They are already giving us a better knowledge and understanding of Roman Britain.”

Archaeologists unearthed the ruins in Scarborough, England, in 2021 when investigating land slated for a housing development. The structures found are likely from a “high status” property, such as a luxury dwelling or religious site. The compound, which included a luxury bathhouse, could even have been a “stately home-cum-gentleman’s club,” reported the Guardian’s Alexandra Topping last year.

Roughly the size of two tennis courts, the villa had a circular center that was probably a tower, per the BBC, with hallways leading to several rooms and outbuildings. 

Regardless of how the villa was used, archeologists agree it was “designed by the highest-quality architects in northern Europe in the era and constructed by the finest craftsmen,” said Karl Battersby, who works for the North Yorkshire county council, to the Guardian.

The discovery was “definitely of national importance,” Emerick told the Guardian. “I would say this is one of the most important Roman discoveries in the past decade, actually. Easily.”

Romans settled in York, about 40 miles from where this villa was discovered, starting in 71 C.E., per York’s historical society. Though York served as the Roman emperors Septimius Severus and Constantine the Great’s local seats of government in the third and fourth centuries respectively, experts wondered why this dwelling was located so far from other Roman centers.

So why rebury such an important site, especially one this unique?

Archeological finds are frequently reburied for a variety of reasons, per the Getty Foundation. In some cases, resources (like money, staff and proper materials) are not available to properly maintain the site. Reburying is also an effective safeguard against vandalism, damage from tourists and harsh weather.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes burying excavated ancient art and architecture is the best way to keep it safe from environmental and human threats,” writes Alexandria Sivak on the Getty Foundation’s website.

The ground above the villa will remain open as a public space, according to the BBC. Eventually, an “interpretive depiction” of the archeological site will be on display for visitors.

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