"My main concern with the brothel theory is that it's just too far away from any major population centres. I'm just not convinced," he said.
He has put together an exhibition of other objects from the villa excavation that could point to the villa having associations with a series of mother goddess cults from around the world.
"There are a few significant religious objects from the site that indicate possible connections with a mother goddess cult," he explained. "They may indicate that the site was a shrine and women went there to give birth, and get protection from the mother goddess during this dangerous time. The large number of babies who are buried there could be natural stillbirths, or children who died in labour."
Well, maybe, but why would an ordinary-looking villa become a center of a mother goddess cult? And even if the women who traveled to the site to give birth had a higher than usual risk of stillbirth, 97 bodies implies a lot of births over the 50-year span when they were interred (AD150 to 200). Either way, the site remains mysterious.