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Found: A Magnificent Roman Villa, Hiding Under a British Backyard

The house would have been three stories tall and occupied by very rich Romans.

The mosaic floor. (Photo: Wiltshire Archaeology Service)

Sometimes there really is a secret world hiding in the backyard, just underneath the ground. In Wiltshire, in the south of England, one family decided to install some electric cables in the ground to light their converted barn. Just 18 inches under the soil, their work crew found mosaic stones in red, blue, and white.

When archaeologists showed up to see what they could find, they found the remains of an awe-inspiring Roman villa, that was once three stories tall, with 20 or more rooms just on the ground floor.

The villa must have belonged to a very wealthy family and would have been one of the most impressive buildings in the area. It’s one of the largest Roman houses ever found in England.

In addition to the well-crafted mosaic floor, archaeologist found brooches, coins, heating pipes in the floor, the remains of hunted animals and “extremely high status pottery,” the Independent reports. They also found the shells of oysters, that would have had to have been transported, in basins of salt water from the coast, 45 miles away.

The villa dates back to 175 to 220 A.D., but even after the Roman Empire left England, the house still stood, until about 1,400 years ago. The modern-day house is built from two laborers’ cottages, in the center of the old villa, which was forgotten so completely that a child’s coffin, of Roman origins, had been used as a geranium planter.

Bonus finds: Polaroids from original Rocky Horror Picture Show, a 400-year-old dress rescued from a shipwreck

Every day, we highlight one newly found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.