Archaeologists from the University of Sheffield have uncovered a unique insight into the life of one of the Roman Empire's most prominent landowners.
Until now, very little was known about Rome's Imperial leaders aside from their battle triumphs, territorial conquests and monumental legacies.
Researchers from the University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology investigating the vast Imperial estate of Vagnari in Italy, have now unearthed evidence of wine production on an industrial scale – shedding light on their home life away from the battlefield.
The excavation team discovered the corner of a cella vinaria, a wine fermentation and storage room, in which wine vessels, known as dolia defossa, were fixed into the ground.
The heavy and cumbersome wine vessels have the capacity of more than 1,000 litres and were buried up to their necks in the ground to keep the temperature of the wine constant and cool – a necessary measure in hot climates.
The scale of the wine production provides clear evidence for industrial activities and provides a glimpse into the range of specialist crafts and industries practised by residents - painting a better and more complete picture of life on the Imperial estate and the wealth it provided for its owner.
Maureen Carroll, Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, said: "Before we began our work only a small part of the vicus, which is at the heart of the estate and its administrative core, had been explored though the general size and outline of the village had been indicated by geophysics and test-trenching.
"The discovery that lead was being processed here at Vagnari is also particularly revealing about the environment in which the inhabitants of the village lived and potential health risks to which they were exposed.