Public get glimpse of Roman city under Leicester

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Archaeologists from the university provided guided tours, showing a selection of the rare finds and artefacts found during the dig.

One of the largest ever Roman excavation sites ever discovered in the English city of Leicester has been opened to the public.

Visitors were able to explore what Roman life in the city was like over 1,500 years ago on Saturday.

An archaeological dig has been carried out by University of Leicester’s Archaeology Services (ULAS) on a former factory site in the city centre ahead of a multi-million pound development project.

Archaeologists from the university provided guided tours, showing a selection of the rare finds and artefacts found during the dig.

Key discoveries include the remains of one of the largest and highest-status Roman mosaic floors ever found in Leicester, two Roman streets containing a number of buildings and rare evidence of the first Anglo-Saxon migrants to arrive in the city following the demise of Roman Leicester.

Since the excavation began in September 2016, the team has uncovered two Roman streets, one east-west and the other north-south, as well as two large high-status Roman houses with evidence for a number of rooms, some of which contain mosaics of varying patterns and designs.

In one room, the team discovered the largest and finest-quality mosaic found in over 150 years in Leicester, made with small cubes of stone and tile throughout. The mosaic is in a room with underfloor heating, probably the principal reception room of a major Roman town house on one of the main streets through Roman Leicester.

Vast quantities of pottery, coins, brooches, beads, hair pins, gaming pieces and manicure objects were found as well as an exceptionally decorated knife handle cast in copper alloy, which seemingly depicts a scene showing victims thrown to the lions in the amphitheatre.

The team has now begun investigating the well-preserved north-south Roman street which extends over 50 meters across the site and found evidence for possible Anglo-Saxon timber structures built close to a Roman building, overlying a Roman street.

This relates to the period following the end of Roman Leicester, when Anglo-Saxon migrants arrived from the continent and settled in the ruins of the Roman town in the 5th and 6th centuries AD.

Richard Buckley, Co-director of ULAS said: “The excavation has given us a rare and exciting opportunity to explore quite a large part of Roman Leicester, known as Ratae Corieltavorum, revealing evidence for the homes of some of its wealthier citizens who lived just a short walk away from both the town’s baths and forum.

“Despite huge disturbance from modern buildings of the 20th century, evidence for Roman streets has survived together with fragments of some spectacular coloured mosaic pavements which the public will be able to see.”

City mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This part of the city would have been at the very heart of Roman Leicester, and it continues to provide further fascinating evidence of this important part of our local history.”

The land is owned by Charles Street Buildings group, who made the site available ahead of a major planned development of the site. The company plans to build two new 4-star hotels and one of the city’s biggest ever office blocks.

The excavation site will be open to the public again next Sunday.

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