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Houten, Burgemeester Wallerweg
Saturday 7 July 2007

We staan op de voorpagina in verband met de (afgelaste) opgravingen in Houten Centrum.We had been contacted by the local archaeological group 'Leen de Keijzer' to join them for a special commemorative excavation on the 7th july (indeed, 07-07-2007, from 7.00 to 19.00). The plan was to do a limited excavation on the exact site where, 50 years earlier, a Roman villa had been found during the construction of a main sewer in the (then still a) village of Houten. The villa had been covered over afterwards by the main road through the old villa centre, and the plan was to take a look at how the remains had been conserved. Houten
Houten, southeast of Utrecht.
Houten
Detailed image of the area of the event with the villa in red.

The villa complex had been found on January 22, 1957, due West of the church on the Burgemeester Wallerweg. This was no surprise, because earlier stones from Roman buildings had been found in the church cemetary wall, and archaeologists expected to find a Roman building close by. The old church went back to at least the 9th century, and possibly showed the same alignment as the remains of the building that soon came to light.

The old villa centre of Houten in 2004.
The old villa centre of Houten in 2004.
The Wallerweg during the excavations in 1957.
The Wallerweg during the excavations in 1957.
The Wallerweg with the stones showing the villa, in 1997.
The Wallerweg with the stones showing the villa, in 1997.
The Wallerweg ten years later in 2007.
The Wallerweg ten years later in 2007.

The oldest remains on the site dated back to the Middle Iron Age (c. 500 BC), showing there had been almost continious occcupation on this higher area between the rivers. Remains of the Late Iron Age had been replaced by a building from the Early Roman period, the first of three phases. Phase 1 (50-75 AD)was a wooden building, measuring 26.5 by 6.8 m. A second wooden building (phase 2) was dated to the early 2nd century. The phase 3 building was of stone and had been built c. 1150-175 AD. For these parts, the building was quite luxurious with a hypocaust, windows with glass and wall painting, not to mention a porticus. The building had therefore a 'real Roman' appearance and is likely to have been the home of an important man, leading a large agrarian community that most probably produced food for the Roman fort of Fectio.
When exactly this building was given up is not clear, but a date somewhere during the later 3rd century is usually assumed. All of these buildings were partly obscured by modern buildings, prohibiting further excavation.

Forty years later, the outlines of the villas were laid out in the pavement of the Wallerweg. And a small part of this area was planned to be dug up again, 50 years after being sealed.

Romans have returned to ancient Houten..
Romans have returned to ancient Houten..
Late Roman patrol, across the market where we raised a few eyebrows!
Late Roman patrol, across the market where we raised a few eyebrows!
My wife and daughter pay us a supporting visit...
My wife and daughter pay us a supporting visit...
The information stand of the local archaeological group. To the left the outlines of the villa.
The information stand of the local archaeological group. To the left the outlines of the villa.

However, things were not to go as planned. Despite being consulted and having concented months before, the ROB (state board for archaeological research) at the last moment refused permission. So the dig was cancelled! We turned up anyway, to catch the attention of the passers-by and to make a patrol across the market, raising eyebrows all around. It worked - we made the front page!


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