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Palatial Roman villa found by chance in rural garden

By Emily Beament

An "elaborate and extraordinarily well-preserved" Roman villa has been discovered by chance by a home owner laying electric cables in his garden.

The villa was found after rug designer Luke Irwin unearthed a high-quality Roman mosaic at his Wiltshire farmhouse while laying cables so that his children could play table tennis in an old barn.

He called in archaeological experts and an eight-day dig by Historic England and Salisbury Museum revealed the home of a wealthy family living in luxury.

Mr Irwin said: "I was overwhelmed by the realisation that someone's lived on this site for 2,000 years.

"You look out at an empty field from your front door, and yet 1,500 years ago there was the biggest house, possibly, in all of Britain."

The dig also turned up coins, brooches, bones of animals including a suckling pig, wild animals which had been hunted and a Roman well, while the experts identified a Roman child's coffin, which had been holding geraniums by Mr Irwin's kitchen.

Dr David Roberts, Historic England archaeologist, said: "This site has not been touched since its collapse 1,400 years ago and, as such, is of enormous importance. Without question, this is a hugely valuable site in terms of research, with incredible potential."

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