Largest archaeological excavation in Leicester in over 10 years open to public

Posted by er134 at Apr 25, 2017 11:35 AM |
Visitors invited to discover Leicester’s Roman past with University of Leicester archaeologists on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 May

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 25 April 2017

  • Key finds include two Roman streets, evidence of Leicester’s first Anglo-Saxon migrants and largest mosaic ever found in the city
  • Findings provide glimpse into Roman life in the north-east quarter of the town
  • Guided tours to be given by University of Leicester archaeologists every 30 minutes from 10-4pm on Saturday 6 May and 11-3pm on Sunday 7 May

Images taken during the dig available to download at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xw5egbtlgl2usfl/AACL5KIYBa2eJqlhHAFtmD3ia?dl=0

A 3D model of the mosaic: https://skfb.ly/6ps9y

Photo/ media opportunity: 12.15pm on Wednesday 26 April - City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby and Professor Iain Gillespie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Leicester will be visiting the excavation site between Great Central Street and Highcross Street, Leicester. Contact Gavin Speed, Site Director at: gs50@le.ac.uk

The largest archaeological excavation in Leicester in over a decade by University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) will be open to the public on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 May.

Work is being carried out by ULAS on the former Stibbe factory site, between Great Central Street and Highcross Street in central Leicester.

The land is owned by Charles Street Buildings group, which has made the site available and financially supported the archaeological excavation ahead of a major planned development of the site.

Key discoveries include the remains of one of the largest and highest-status Roman mosaic floors ever found in the city, 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.

On Saturday 6 May, members of the public will be invited to visit the excavation site from 10-4pm and from 11-3pm on Sunday 7 May, with guided tours from the archaeologists every 30 minutes. A selection of the rare finds and artefacts found during the dig will also be on display alongside information boards to provide a glimpse into what Roman life in Leicester was like over 1,500 years ago.

City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby will be visiting the site along with Professor Iain Gillespie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Leicester, on Wednesday 26 April to meet with the archaeologists and learn more about the project.

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 (tesserae) throughout. The mosaic is in a room with underfloor heating (hypocaust), 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 metres 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 – 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 (at Jewry Wall) and forum (beneath what is now Jubilee Square).

“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 from a specially constructed platform over the weekend of the 6th and 7th May.  We very grateful indeed for the support from Charles Street Buildings for the project, both for the funding and for making public access possible.”

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.

“With the support of Charles Street Buildings, Richard Buckley and his team have demonstrated once again their uncanny knack of unearthing some truly remarkable amazing chapters in the Story of Leicester.”

Professor Iain Gillespie said: “This find reminds us of how important our city has been and continues to be in the constantly evolving history of this country. I am delighted that University of Leicester scholars, in partnership with the City and local business, have had the opportunity to shine a light on our rich heritage as we build our future in Leicester together.”

Joseph Murphy, Charles Street Buildings director, said: “ULAS has made some very exciting discoveries during this excavation, and we are delighted to be able to open up our site for people to come along and view these finds for themselves.

“We are now looking forward to progressing our ambitious development plans for this important site. This includes the creation of two new 4-star hotels and one of the largest local office developments in the last 20 years, along with a major refurbishment to bring new life to the historic former Great Central Station building.”

The excavation will be open to the public on Saturday 6 May, from 10am to 4pm and Sunday 7 May, from 11am to 3pm. Entrance to the site is via Great Central Street.

Ends

Notes to editors:

Media contacts

Richard Buckley: rjb16@leicester.ac.uk

Joe Murphy, Charles Street Buildings group: Joseph.Murphy@csbgroup.co.uk

Jon Evans, Leicester City Council: Jon.Evans@leicester.gov.uk

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