Stonehenge twin discovered stone's throw away
New wooden henge, a circular ditch that aligns with world-famous monument, deemed site's most exciting find in a lifetime
Thursday 22 July 2010 10.52 BST
Without a sod of earth being dug up, a new henge, a circular ditch which probably enclosed a ring of timber posts and may have been used for feasting, has been discovered within sight of Stonehenge.
Professor Vince Gaffney, of Birmingham university, described the discovery of the new monument, only 900 metres away and apparently contemporary to the 5,000-year-old stone circle, as the most exciting find at Stonehenge in a lifetime.
"This finding is remarkable. It will completely change the way we think about the landscape around Stonehenge.
"People have tended to think that as Stonehenge reached its peak, it was the paramount monument, existing in splendid isolation. This discovery is completely new and extremely important in how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape.
"Stonehenge is one of the most studied monuments on Earth but this demonstrates that there is still much more to be found."
Midsummer revellers coming to Stonehenge for the solstice have probably trampled unwittingly across the grass hiding the henge.
The henge was revealed within a fortnight of an international team beginning fieldwork on the three-year Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project, which aims to survey and map 14 sq km of the sacred landscape around the world's most famous prehistoric monument, which is studded with thousands more monuments from single standing stones to ploughed out burial mounds.
Amanda Chadburn, the archaeologist responsible for Stonehenge at English Heritage, said: "This new monument is part of a growing body of evidence which shows how important the summer and winter solstices were to the ancient peoples who built Stonehenge. The discovery is all the more remarkable given how much research there has been in the vicinity of Stonehenge, and emphasises the importance of continuing research within and around the world heritage site."
The survey suggests that the henge was on the same alignment as Stonehenge, and comprised a segmented ditch with north-east and south-west entrances, enclosing internal pits up to a metre in diameter believed to have held massive timbers.
For the last fortnight curious tourists have watched scientists trundling what look like large lawnmowers around the nearby field. The geophysical equipment can peer under the surface of the earth using techniques like ground-penetrating radar, revealing structures now invisible to the human eye.
The new discovery was hidden in the landscape: nothing remains above ground.
The international team includes scientists and archaeologists from Birmingham University, Bradford, St Andrews, and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Virtual Archaeology in Austria, as well as teams from Germany, Norway and Sweden.
Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, said: "This is just the beginning. We will now map this monument using an array of technologies that will allow us to view this new discovery, and the landscape around it, in three dimensions. This marks a new departure for archaeologists and how they investigate the past."
The work of other teams suggests that timber and stone monuments were separate parts of the same Stonehenge story. Professor Mike Parker Pearson, an archaeologist who has been excavating for many seasons at Durrington Walls, another nearby timber henge site, has already suggested that timber henges and structures were associated with feasting for the living, and stone circles with the realms of the dead.
Work continues and the team expects to uncover many more secrets in the landscape.
The discovery sharpens the disappointment of the partners working on the Stonehenge Project, an ambitious scheme which has already absorbed millions of pounds in planning work, intended to reunite the stone circle with the surrounding landscape, most of which is owned by the National Trust and leased to farmers. The plan to bury in a tunnel the traffic choked trunk road that runs within yards of the monument has been abandoned on cost grounds. Last month the government announced it was scrapping the promised £25m contribution towards a new visitor centre, replacing the present facilities damned by the parliamentary public accounts committee as "a national disgrace".
Discovered: Stone Age man's morning after the night before
By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent
Saturday, 24 July 2010
Archaeologists in Wiltshire have discovered remarkable evidence of a spectacular party – enjoyed by Neolithic tribesmen 4,500 years ago.
Excavations at Britain's biggest "henge" site – a prehistoric religious complex 16 times the size of Stonehenge – have yielded the remains of dozens of pigs slaughtered for an ancient ceremonial feast.
The archaeologists, from English Heritage, also discovered the remains of a temporary Neolithic ritual building which they believe was constructed specially for the event – probably for staging religious feasts and rituals. The 25sq m timber structure was surrounded by hundreds of discarded pig bones. It's one of the very few Neolithic buildings ever discovered in Britain.
Built on top of the earthwork bank of Marden Henge's previously unknown inner sanctum, the building overlooked the river Avon. The archaeologists – led by English Heritage prehistorian Jim Leary – believe that the river was sacred to the prehistoric population of the area.
Other finds being unearthed at the site include high-status decorated pottery, ultra-rare bone implements – and an elaborate ceremonial flint arrow head. "The new discoveries are of international importance because the material being unearthed is extraordinarily rare and will shed unprecedented new light on religion and ritual in Neolithic Britain," said Mr Leary. "The excavation is exceeding all expectations. It is likely to change prehistorians' understanding of Britain's henge monuments."
Wooden "Stonehenge" Emerges From Prehistoric Ohio
Timber circles, like U.K. monument, aligned to summer solstice, study reveals.
Published July 20, 2010
Just northeast of Cincinnati, Ohio, a sort of wooden Stonehenge is slowly emerging as archaeologists unearth increasing evidence of a 2,000-year-old ceremonial site.
Among their latest finds: Like Stonehenge, the Ohio timber circles were likely used to mark astronomical events such as the summer solstice.
Formally called Moorehead Circle but nicknamed "Woodhenge" by non-archaeologists, the site was once a leafless forest of wooden posts. Laid out in a peculiar pattern of concentric, but incomplete, rings, the site is about 200 feet (57 meters) wide.
Today only rock-filled postholes remain, surrounded by the enigmatic earthworks of Fort Ancient State Memorial. Some are thousands of feet long and all were built by Indians of the pre-agricultural Hopewell culture, the dominant culture in midwestern and eastern North America from about A.D. 1 to 900.
This year archaeologists began using computer models to analyze Moorehead Circle's layout and found that Ohio's Woodhenge may have even more in common with the United Kingdom's Stonehenge than thought—specifically, an apparently intentional astronomical alignment.
The software "allows us to stitch together various kinds of geographical data, including aerial photographs and excavation plans and even digital photographs," explained excavation leader Robert Riordan, an archaeologist at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
The researchers had known, for example, that an opening in the rings; a nearby, human-made enclosure; stone mounds; and a gateway in a nearby earthen wall are all aligned.
But the model revealed that the alignment is such that, during the Northern Hemisphere's summer solstice—the longest day of the year—the sun appears to rise in the gateway, as seen from the center of the circle, Riordan said.
In much the same way, and on the same day, the sun appears to rise alongside Stonehenge's outlying Heel Stone, casting a beam on the monument's central altar. (See Stonehenge pictures.)
Park officials using ground-penetrating technologies discovered the first holes at Moorehead Circle in 2005. Since then, Riordan's team's excavations have revealed hundreds more.
About 10 inches (30 centimeters) across and up to three feet (one meter) deep, the holes are thought to have held posts made from stripped oaks, hickories, and other local trees, Riordan said.
Each post probably stood about 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 meters) above ground, and some were spaced only a few inches apart.
At the center of the innermost circle is a patch of cleared earth filled with reddish, burned soil and hundreds of broken pottery fragments.
In 2007 Riordan and his team discovered a series of trenches filled with ash and clay and capped with gravel and soil.
The trenches' layout mimics the pattern of the long-gone posts. And as with the posts, Riordan said, "We have no idea what [the trenches] were built for."
For the ancient Ohioans, constructing Moorehead Circle would have been a significant undertaking.
"They would have had to dig these holes, go get the trees, cut them, strip them, and carry them in," Riordan said.
Workers would have had to carry limestone rocks from about a mile (1.6 kilometers) away and up a 250-foot (76-meter) hill. The rocks would have then been broken up and placed in the pits to help keep the posts upright.
Not even digging the postholes would have been easy. Lacking shovels or picks, the Hopewell people dug with bones and sharpened pieces of wood.
And for all their work, the circle's creators must have known their monument wasn't built to last. After about ten years the wooden posts would have been largely rotted and ripe for replacement, Riordan said.
"This was an elaborate construction," he added. "All the effort that went into constructing it suggests it was the ceremonial focus of Fort Ancient for a time."
'It's mind blowing': 900-year-old figurine found during work on new river bridge
BY GEORGE PAWLACZYK - News-Democrat
If just one more shovel of earth had been removed, the curious figurine of a kneeling woman carved about 900 years ago might have ended up in a 19th century curio shop.
Or lost forever.
Instead, archaeology graduate student Steve Boles found the rare, 6-inch-high artifact this spring at a massive archaeological dig now under way at the old National Stock Yards to make way for construction of a new $670 million Mississippi River bridge. The figurine and the whole excavation have caused great excitement among archaeology professionals and students.
The sheer size of the dig and the discovery of a buried city dating to around 1050 A.D. -- the same time that mound and city building also took off at nearby Cahokia Mounds -- has raised hope that an old archaeological puzzle may finally be solved: Where did the Mississippians -- a non-nomadic, warrior-based agricultural society -- come from and why did they build on such a grand scale?
Site manager and archaeologist Jeff Kruchten said that since last fall, 137 dwelling sites have been dug up or are being excavated. Another 500 to 650 are thought to exist, pushing the estimate of the city's peak population to at least 4,000.
Because the site must be fully excavated or be forever lost to construction, the usual practice of digging up only a part of a site to save it for future archaeologists -- the strict practice at Cahokia Mounds where only 1 percent of the site has been excavated -- has been dropped. Pretty much the whole stockyards site will be dug.
Joe Galloy, director of the survey's American Bottoms Field Station and overall supervisor of the dig, said simply, "This is the biggest look at a Mississippian City ever. It's really a very rare opportunity."
Boles' excavation showed that the figurine had a close call just before the turn of the century when a manure drain pipe being installed at the stockyards was placed just an inch away from where the treasure was found just 3 feet below the surface. Workmen somehow missed finding it.
Archaeologist Brad Koldehoff said that the back of the figurine was charred from a fire that probably destroyed a hut-like Mississippian home and could have produced enough heat to explode the relic -- made of flint clay, a soft, reddish substance found in Missouri that dries rock hard.
The roughly carved face of a woman, whose long hair winds down her back, stares impassively. She appears to be holding a conch shell, which were often imported from early people who lived along the Gulf of Mexico.
Like Pompeii, this 1,000-year-old buried city was basically forgotten for centuries. In the 19th century, 45 mounds that surrounded the site were carted off and used to raise certain areas in East St. Louis above flood level.
Galloy said that one important finding is that there was no clear delineation between this Mississippian city and other sites in the area.
"It was like a big urban sprawl. Well-worn trails led everywhere."
Galloy and Kruchten said a key part of learning the answers to the origin of the Mississippians may lie not only with the size and scope of the excavation, but also with the 1050 A.D. date, confirmed by cross-checking radio-carbon and pottery-dating methods. Earlier findings from Cahokia will be compared to what is learned from the stockyards city to determine the significance of the entire Mississippian habitation.
Galloy said he agrees with other archaeologists who believe that Cahokia and its surrounding towns were the beginning of and the cultural center of what became the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex of mound building stretching from Illinois south to Mississippi to Georgia.
"It was the administrative center," Galloy said.
"It's mind blowing," added Kruchten, who spends his days going from "square to square," as each digger's excavation is called.
"We are finding evidence of special buildings that could have been used for religious purposes or communal areas, and of sweat lodges," he said. The evidence of a sweat lodge is a circle of dark stains where a hut's poles once stood with a hearth in the center.
A sweat lodge, widely used among historical American Indians even today, features a small enclosure with an open fire to boil water. The steam and darkness are believed to purify body and mind.
Unlike other Mississippian sites, early, more primitive habitations were not found beneath the stockyards city.
"There was nobody there before them. So, it was kind of an empty piece of the flood plain where Mississippian developers came in and for just a hundred or two hundred years or so cut down trees, leveled things off and built mounds," said Koldehoff, cultural resource coordinator for the Illinois Department of Transportation. He formerly headed the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program, known now as the Illinois State Archaeological Survey.
Koldehoff said the 1050 A.D. date is the "Big Bang" for mound building, and was popularly applied to the study of the culture by archaeologist Tim Pauketat, whose book, "Cahokia -- Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi," chronicles this sometimes violent culture where human sacrifices were known to occur.
"It was like this big, happening place and then boom, it ends and it just sits there and then the stockyards come in," Koldehoff said. The stockyards officially opened in 1873.
Excitement has caught on among the diggers, including archaeology graduate student Liz Watts of Indiana University.
Last week, she finished excavating parts of two dwellings that came together at one corner. Each posthole stain found in the soil was meticulously charted on a large graph, as were artifacts and household trash, including a small, serrated Cahokia arrow point (a sharp piece of chert that might have served as a skinning knife), a pile of bird bones and a lump of limestone.
The 24-year-old Watts said she has caught the excitement of the dig and like others hopes the answer to the origin of the Mississippians culture might turn up, or at least part of the answer.
As for digging and sifting dirt in 90-degree heat, she said" "All of it may not be flashy and glamorous. That's why I like this kind of archaeology. To me it's all flashy and glamorous."
Read more: http://www.bnd.com/2010/07/20/1335048/its-mind-blowing.html#ixzz0ujP8zI00
Extreme archaeology: Divers plumb the mysteries of sacred Maya pools
7/21/10 | Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor | 217-333-5802; firstname.lastname@example.org
Steering clear of crocodiles and navigating around massive submerged trees, a team of divers began mapping some of the 25 freshwater pools of Cara Blanca, Belize, which were important to the ancient Maya. In three weeks this May, the divers found fossilized animal remains, bits of pottery and – in the largest pool explored – an enormous underwater cave.
This project, led by University of Illinois anthropology professor Lisa Lucero and funded by the National Geographic Society and an Arnold O. Beckman Award, was the first of what Lucero hopes will be a series of dives into the pools of the southern Maya lowlands in central Belize. The divers will return this summer to assess whether archaeological excavation is even possible at the bottom of the pools, some of which are more than 60 meters deep.
“We don’t know if it’s going to be feasible to conduct archaeology 200 feet below the surface,” Lucero said. “But they are going to try.”
The Maya believed that openings in the earth, including caves and water-filled sinkholes, called cenotes (sen-OH-tays), were portals to the underworld, and often left offerings there. Ceremonial artifacts of the Maya have been found in pools and lakes in Mexico, but not yet in Belize.
Maya structures have been found near two of the eight pools the team surveyed.
“The pools with the most substantial and most obvious settlement at the edge also turn out to be the deepest that we know,” Lucero said. The divers so far have explored eight of the 25 known pools of Cara Blanca.
The use of these pools at the end of the Late Classic period (roughly A.D. 800-900) corresponds to an enduring drought that deforested parts of Central America and – some believe – ultimately drove the Maya from the area.
The need for fresh water could have drawn the Maya to the pools, Lucero said. No vessels other than water jars were found in the structures built near the pools.
“They could have been making offerings to the rain god and other supernatural forces to bring an end to the drought,” she said.
Patricia Beddows, one of the divers and a hydrologist and geochemist at Northwestern University, found that the chemistry of the water in each of the pools was distinct. She also found that the water in Pool 1, the pool with the huge cave and a Maya structure at its edge, held the freshest water of the pools surveyed. But the water contained a lot of soluble minerals, Lucero said, making it problematic for anyone who used it as their primary water supply. Those who drank the water over an extended period would have been at risk of developing kidney stones, she said.
The divers extracted core samples of the sediment at the bottoms of two of the pools. An analysis of the soil, debris and pollen in the cores will offer insight into the natural history of the cenotes and the surrounding region.
Lucero recruited expert cave exploration divers for the expedition. She provided food, lodging and other basics, but the divers donated their time and expertise. The dive team included Robbie Schmittner, Kim Davidsson (an independent cave dive instructor), Bil Phillips, and videographer Marty O’Farrell, who produced the video.
The research team also included archaeologist Andrew Kinkella, of Moorpark College. In Pool 1, Kinkella and diver Edward Mallon recovered ceramic jar shards in the wall of the pool just below the Maya structure.
Three more divers, Steve Bogaerts, James “Chip” Petersen and still photographer Tony Rath will join the project this summer.
Lucero has studied Maya settlements and sacred sites in Belize for more than 20 years, and works under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology, which is part of the National Institute of Culture and History, Government of Belize.
Chinese archaeologists' African quest for sunken ship of Ming admiral
Search for remains of armada which came to grief on a pioneering voyage to Kenya 600 years ago
Xan Rice in Nairobi
Sunday 25 July 2010 16.14 BST
It's another chapter in the now familiar story of China's economic embrace of Africa. Except that this one begins nearly 600 years ago.
A team of 11 Chinese archaeologists will arrive in Kenya tomorrow to begin the search for an ancient shipwreck and other evidence of commerce with China dating back to the early 15th century. The three-year, £2m joint project will centre around the tourist towns of Lamu and Malindi and should shed light on a largely unknown part of both countries' histories.
The sunken ship is believed to have been part of a mighty armada commanded by Ming dynasty admiral Zheng He, who reached Malindi in 1418. According to Kenyan lore, reportedly backed by recent DNA testing, a handful of survivors swum ashore. After killing a python that had been plaguing a village, they were allowed to stay and marry local women, creating a community of African-Chinese whose descendants still live in the area.
A likely shipwreck site has been identified near Lamu island, according to Idle Farah, director general of the National Museums of Kenya, which is working on the archaeology project with its Chinese equivalent and Peking University.
"The voyages of the Portuguese and the Arabs to our coasts have long been documented," Farah told the Guardian. "Now, by examining this shipwreck, we hope to clarify with clear evidence the first contact between China and east Africa."
The project forms part of a recent effort by the Chinese government to celebrate the achievements of Zheng, a Muslim whose ships sailed the Indian and Pacific Oceans many decades before the exploits of more celebrated European explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama. Starting in 1405, Zheng made seven journeys, taking in south-east Asia, India, the Middle East and Africa, in fleets of up to 300 huge ships with nearly 30,000 sailors in total, according to Chinese records.
On his voyages, Zheng dished out gifts from the Chinese emperor, including gold, porcelain and silk. In return, he brought home ivory, myrrh, zebras and camels. But it was a giraffe that caused the biggest stir. The animal is known to have been a gift from the Sultan of Malindi, on Kenya's northern coast, but theories vary as to how exactly it got to China. One account suggests that the giraffe was taken from the ruler of Bengal — who himself had received it as a gift from the Sultan — and that it inspired Zheng to visit Kenya a few years later.
Herman Kiriama, Kenya's head of coastal archeology, said the joint archeological team will this week try to locate the Sultan's original village, which is though to be around Mambrui village, outside Malindi, where Ming porcelain has been discovered. In late August, the project will move underwater, with the arrival of specialist maritime archeologists from China.
"Though we have not located the shipwreck yet, we have good indications of where it might have gone down," said Kiriama.
The team's confidence in finding the sunken ship is bolstered by work done in the run-up to the 600th anniversary of Zheng's first voyage. As part of the 2005 celebration, in which the Beijing government sought to present Zheng as a sort of maritime goodwill ambassador – a portrayal disputed by some scholars who point to his use of military force – China sent a team of scholars to Lamu.
In Siyu village they conducted DNA tests on a Swahili family whose oral history and hints of Chinese facial features led them to believe they were descendants of Zheng's shipwrecked sailors. The tests reportedly showed evidence of Chinese ancestry and a 19-year-old woman called Mwamaka Shirafu was given a full scholarship to study traditional medicine in China, where she remains.
Roman neighborhood ruins uncovered in Lyon, France
JUL 22, 2010 By Michael Cosgrove
A look at the origins of Lyon, which was founded in 43 BC during the Roman Empire. Recent excavation work has uncovered a residential area in what was the center of the city.
Situated in what was Gaul – France - and conquered by Julius Caesar between 58 and 53 BC, Lyon was born with the name Lugdunum, after the Gaulish word ‘dunum’ which meant ‘hill fort’, in 43 BC on the summit of the Fourvière heights. The Romans were not the first people to live here, though, as there is evidence of pre-Gallic community activity which goes back as far as the Neolithic era. Lugdunum’s first inhabitants were members of a group of Roman refugees who had been forced to leave Vienne, a town 30km south.
The choice of the site was made by Roman Consul Lucius Munatius Plancus and it was probably chosen because of its strategic position overlooking the surrounding countryside in what was a turbulent and violent era of Ancient Roman history. Julius Caesar was assassinated the next year.
Lugdunum continued to grow and prosper for over 300 years and its initial population of a few hundred souls grew substantially to many thousands. The city eventually became the Administrative capital of Gaul and Germany.
Little by little however, various religious and political upheavals and battles began to weaken the Roman Empire’s hold over the whole of Gaul. The once-prosperous town fell into decline and lost its former importance until its fortunes were reversed after the end of the Empire.
The next 2000 years witnessed the slow burial of Lugdunum’s remains as a result of many generations of construction and almost all traces of it were lost until concentrated efforts were made to rediscover the city’s origins over 50 years ago. Fourvière became a classified site and all remains found during construction work are now reported to local authorities by law. The authorities mandate archaeologists to explore them and some are maintained whereas others are subsequently reburied.
Enter Jules Ramona, an archaeologist with Swiss-based archaeological specialists Archeodunum. He was one of the people entrusted with the exploration of a Roman site which was accidentally found during foundation excavation for a building project on the site of what is now a hospital, and he began working on the site in June of this year.
He and his colleagues have unearthed a whole neighborhood near what was the centre of the city and he described what can be seen from the top to the bottom of the overview photo below which shows a part of one street. Note the remains of a shop or home at mid-height-left in which the earthen floor has a much darker, reddish color than the others.
“At the top edge there is a path which steps down to a road wide enough for two-lane chariot travel, that is to say about 10 to 12 meters" explains Jules. "Then there’s another path and towards the bottom there are the remains of houses and shops in what used to be a busy part of the city. The buildings were often two stories high, with living quarters upstairs from the shops.”
There was a waste water evacuation trench under one of the paths, and it can be seen here during work to clear it. In the background can be seen the modern-day ground level, which is over one-and-a-half meters higher than it was at the time.
We came to an ornamental water pool, and I was surprised to see that it had what looked very much like a concrete lining. “It is a kind of concrete, but it’s an early kind” said Jules. “It is a type of mortar consisting of a mix of water, sand and stones, which was also used to line the walls of buildings, the lower parties of which were made of stone, with a kind of packed mud higher up and then wood.”
The water for the pool most probably came from this well, the edge of which is inaccessible to visitors as it is deep. In fact the bottom “could be as deep as 40 meters down” according to Jules, but they haven’t got that far yet.
Then disaster struck the city in the form of a major fire, which destroyed many buildings. They were broken down to what could still be used and then rebuilt. “We know there was a fire because of the color of some of the stone in the walls. Stone that was exposed to severe heat took on a reddish color which is still to be seen. That means that we can see which parts of the neighborhood existed before the fire and which were built, or rebuilt, afterwards.”
This also explains the reddish floor in the first photo, which indicates that that property was severely damaged whilst the others to the right of it escaped relatively unscathed.
The builders needed clay to rebuild with, and they obtained it from craters which they dug behind the main street.
“The craters were then filled in with unusable remains from the original buildings such as smaller stones and fragments of mortar. Some of this debris can be seen embedded in the walls of the craters.”
In the background can be seen the lower part of the enormous mound of earth and debris cleared away by workmen in order to uncover the site.
The complexity of the buildings is clearly visible below. “This part of the neighborhood is a good illustration of the fact that it was built on a fairly steep slope. The walls on the right are more or less complete, but to the left, higher up, there are remains of walls which of course went up much higher than those below. This neighborhood was built as a series of steps, or terraces.”
It began to rain as I left the site and I tried to imagine how this community would have spent its time indoors waiting for rain to stop on a similarly grey and dull afternoon 2000 years ago. No electricity, no Internet, no TV.
And the thought came to me that they would never have foreseen that all those years later, an archaeologist would say to someone, me as it happens, “It’s very sad in a way. When the dig is over and we’ve finished uncovering and documenting everything, these remains will be destroyed forever by the work needed to build the foundations of a new building, and it’ll all be over.”
It was a very humbling experience to be one of the last people ever to see this tiny slice of human endeavor and history.
Roman villa found in Welsh 'military zone'
The Roman control over Britain stretched even further than first thought, the discovery of a new villa suggests.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Published: 2:36PM BST 26 Jul 2010
Archaeologists have discovered a 4th Century villa near Aberystwyth, the first time they have found evidence of Roman occupation of North and mid Wales.
Findings indicate Abermagwr had all the trappings of villas found further south, including a slate roof and glazed windows.
The villa is likely to have belonged to a wealthy landowner, with pottery and coin finds on the site indicating occupation in the late 3rd and early 4th Centuries AD.
It was roofed with local slates, which were cut for a pentagonal roof. The walls were built of local stone and there was a cobbled yard.
Roman villas were high-status homes of wealthy landowners which sat at the heart of a farming estate. They are common throughout southern England and south Wales, but rare in mid and west Wales.
It was thought that Wales was a "military zone", abandoned by the Romans a few decades after the first century.
Dr Toby Driver, of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and Dr Jeffrey Davies, formerly of Aberystwyth University, had previously excavated at the nearby Trawscoed Roman fort, which had been abandoned by AD 130.
"Our trial excavations this year have confirmed the remains of an imposing Romano-British building in the heart of mid-Wales, where no Roman villas were previously known" they said.
"The discovery raises significant new questions about the regional economy and society in late Roman Wales, and raises the possibility of future villa discoveries in the surrounding countryside".