Strategies to Locate Roman Villas in the Cotswold

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Identify a strategy to locate a Roman villa and its contemporary landscape in the Cotswold.

Table of Content

  • Introduction……………………………………………….Page 1
  • Field Survey……………………………………………....Page 2
  1. Desktop Survey……………………………………Page 2
  2. Fieldwalking………………………………………..Page 2
  • Remote Sensing………………………………….……....Page 2
  1. Aerial Photography…..……………………….…...Page 2
  2. Pros and cons……………………………………...Page 2
  3. Airbourne LiDar……………………….…………...Page 2
  • Geophysical Survey……………………………….……..Page 2
  1. Resistence Survey…………………….…………..Page 2
  2. Magnetic survey/magnometry……………………Page 2
  3. Pros and cons……………………………………...Page 2


What is Cotswold? Where is Cotswold?

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is recognited of its rich, diverse and high quality landscape. It stretches from Bath and Wiltshire in the south through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire to Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the north.

Its central feature are the Cotswolds Hills which rise gently from the broad, green meadows of the upper Thames to crest in a dramatic escarpment above the Severn Valley and Evesham Vale. Rural England at its most mellow, the landscape draws a unique warmth and richness from the famous limestone beauty of its buildings.

What are the geographical features of Cotswold?

The Cotswolds is the largest continuous landform feature in lowland England. It is a classic example of a scarp and dip landscape. Towards the south-east the rocks get gradually younger and their different lithologies and erosional histories produce different types of features in the landscape. The relationships between geology and landscape can be clearly seen.

The geology of the Cotswolds as everywhere has a very strong influence on the landscape. The landscape of the escarpment is relatively young, as the wearing back of the escarpment has taken place over the last 1.6 million years during the Quaternary period.

The gentle waves of the Cotswold landscape were formed by numerous streams cutting down through the rocks. Some of these streams still flow but many were the result of melting snow and ice and higher levels of precipitation following the Ice Ages that have left dry valleys behind them.

Cotswolds which are now dry or occupied by smaller misfit streams. The land-slipped areas on the Cotswold Scarp have a characteristic set of topographic features and are highly responsive to environmental change in and on them, such as caused by increased rainfall or ground engineering projects.

Landscape characteristics (look at the landscape journal as well)

If we can characterize the landscape of the Cotswolds briefly - always a dangerous exercise, but in the interests of simplicity I'll do it anyway - the area is composed of windswept upland offering panoramic views, and sheltered valleys with tiny hamlets and villages dotted in the folds of the land amid pastures separated by low stone walls.

What is roman villa?

Roman villa is luxurious concept of living created by the roman that dates back to about 1 million years ago. It was originally constructed for the hierarchy.

Eventually, people of different caste also started to live in them. Roman villas are quite popular for their exteriors and interior and the work of mosaic.

Where do you find them?

Looking back the history, the roman invaded Britain about in A.D 43. Travellers and trades came to visit Britain and eventually it lead to the first raid into Britain. As they started to settle in, they started with Kent. Rapidly going higher, they hit Exeter, Lincoln, Humbler, cirencester and finally Gloucester. It helped in focusing on Romanization. With time, as the concepts on Villa grown upon due to Romanization, there was about 22 villas itself just in the Cotswolds lined right next to each other.

What is the connection between roman villa and landscape?

There had been connections amongst the landscapes and villas. Most Villas are lined up near the roman highway giving access to proper markets, which indicated commercial life. Furthermore, more villas are situated next to trivial steams and rivers to get a good supply of water or to grow vegetation.

What are the possible ways of finding the roman villa?

Keeping the vast history of the Roman and the Romanization in mind, there is a very high possibility that; there are many more villas around the southern east of Britain that still have not been found and excavated.

Archaeologically there are various way of finding sites that could be opted by archaeologists depending on which location they are trying to look for a site like:

  • Field Walking
  • Remote sensing
  1. Aerial Photography Survey
  2. Lidar
  • Geophysical Survey
  1. Resistive Survey
  2. Magnetometry

Working on archaeological sites can be quite destructive that can eventually get us even further away from figuring out about the truth about the history. Over the years, Archaeologists after years of excavation and practice have found various non- destruction ways of analyzing, characterizing and finding sites to dive deep into physical evidence of past activity of humans.

Field Walking

Field walking is the method used after the field survey, in this techniques, archaeologists get onto the sites, recongise scatters and develop contour maps and start collecting atrefacts on site. It can be done by numerous people with a leader. People would use the squares or the transect methods to collect artefacts.

Transect and square method

Bags are provided to walkers with transect number or letter. Width of transect is 5-10m allowing from the centerline to view the finds. After collecting the finds, you number finds. Similarly square method, the square is put out beforehand and they are ranged between 5-20m. After collecting the finds, you number and seal them off. All this works after recognizing scatter and making a contour/grid map.

Type of way



Field walking



Needs to be freshly ploughed

Results are just advice

Disparity in Results

Remote Sensing

The transfer of energy between the sensor and the surface is the essence of principles revolving around remote sensing. (saved paper) Remote sensing is a type method designed to

Discover through computer since they can be programmed to look for buried element in areas where surveys have not been conducted. Such characteristics as elevation, distance from water, distance between sites or cities, corridors, and transportation routes can help to predict the location of potential archeological sites. These predictions can be made by using remote sensing instruments such as aerial photography and airborne LiDar.

Aerial Photography

Aerial Photography is a type method used to find sites from a height. You take the photograph from the top, to get a down view on the landscape or the site that you would want to excavate. To analyze the visible Remains, that would be usually be hidden or very difficult to viewed and capture from the ground level.

Aerial photography is usually taken from pole, kites, light aircrafts, and tethered balloons from a vast height. Aerial photography gives you a proper perceptive about the site in terms of soilmarks, cropmarks and shadow sites.

Soilmarks: Ploughed land helps in the observation and capture of soilmarks. However, observations could be hindered due the past activity of humans: Resulting in the topsoil’s color and characteristics to change. However, either the sites that are found through soilmarks are eroded or they are going disappear due to ploughing.

Cropmarks: Formations these are only formed when there are archaeological elements restricting the plant and vegetation growth. Discoloration and the height of crop can be noticed due to the hindrance in the measure of moisture available to the roots. Cropmarks are not very long lasting. They’ll need to experience severe drought condition for longer marks.

Shadow site: Low sunlight helps the show the best observations. The low lights stresses upon the disproportions by underlining bumps and having the hollows filled by deep shadow. Although there is no guarantee of the sunlight as its timings varies in location and temperature. Furthermore, showdown sites can be even observed by frost and light snow.

Pros and Cons:

Types of ways



Tethered balloon

Works in still air


Predictable risks

Unstable in any wind

3m2 helium to lift 2 kgs


Works in still air


10m max height

handling difficult

Light aircrafts


Wider area


Need to certified



Flight time 2 hours

Easy to operate

Unpredictable scheduling

Difficult positioning

Variety of wind speed

Airborne LiDar

Lidar commonly known as Light detection and ranging is an advanced technique used to capture the ground from the height using a laser scanner. Aircrafts are used to reach a particular height, rapid beams are flashed onto the grounds. Angle of the sun can be manipulated and the forests can be eliminated from the scans using particular software. These make it more convenient than just plain aerial photography. (the book)

Type of way




Resolution is very high

Forrest can be eliminated with use of software.


Too much data is produced. Professional help is needed.

Geophysical Survey

( )


Geophysical Survey is the analysis of the physical relationships under the topsoil with excavation through the means of technology such as: Resistive survey and Magnetometry.

There is an active geophysical survey where energy is received by the soil in order for it to respond stating what is under the topsoil. There is a passive geophysical survey where no energy injected, but with the under of magnetism the buried elements are looked upon.

( the book)

Resistance Survey

(A.J. Clark 'Seeing Beneath the Soil, Prospecting Methods in Archaeology' (Batsford, London, 1990).

Electrical current is passed through the ground through surface grid. Buried elements are affected as resistance in the soil varies. Interpretations are made by patterns of resistance in soil. Weak current is passed on through downward electrodes (resistivity meter) inserted in to the soil. Resistance in ohms is measured and graphically maps are plotted by the resistance pattern.

Electrical currents are conducted through the soil minerals in water. However, this is sometimes slow, as the soil must be electrically contacted. Moisture is essential for resistance in the soil. However, if the soil is too hard or dry the survey will not work. Moisture varies in buried elements. Buried elements are detected as moisture is higher in ditches and pits and lower in stone walls depending on surrounding soil.

Magnetic Survey (the book)

Magnetic survey is commonly used for locating pottery and iron related objects, pits and ditches. Through this survey all the buried element that would be found potentially actually, create trivial distortions in the magnetic field of the earth. Chiefly, the buried elements have slight presence of iron oxide grains that will become magnetized in presence of unbaked clay. Hence, it will become weak permanent magnet with creating a magnetic field with the surroundings.

Pros and Cons (

Types of ways



Resistance survey

Simple to perform

Map are plotted both in grey scale and colour


Soil can’t be hard or dry

Can’t cover a lot area in one go

Magnetic survey

Faster than Resistance survey

Map are plotted both in grey scale and colour

Iron grains or hamaete should be present in the buried elements.

Certain soil are not compatible with this survey


There are various stMrategies that could be possibly be used to locate and excavate the roman villas considering the landscape feature of cotswolds and how a roman villa is structured. The most classic example of how to locate a roman villa would be the use of Aerial photography. By performing Aerial photography, specifically to look for soilmarks we can locate roman villas.

The ones that is apt for locating a Roman Villa

Strategy 1 –

Why is it apt?

Supported by a Case study

Strategy 2 –

Why is it apt?

Supported by a case study

UB NO - 14025498