Fresh excavations to reveal more of Caistor St Edmund's secrets

One of the largest Roman temples has been discovered near Norwich. Picture: Will Bowden

One of the largest temples in Roman Britain was found at the site. - Credit: Archant

One of Norfolk's most remarkable archaeological sites is set to give up more of its secrets, with film crews due to capture the latest excavations.

After an enforced break due to Covid-19, members of the Caistor Roman Project will be back on the Caistor St Edmund site from this weekend for more excavations.

Known as Venta Icenorum by the Romans, the past decade has seen renewed excavations at the site.

Interest in the site was initially triggered more than 90 years ago after a series of aerial photographs were taken by the RAF.

Those photographs of the parched field, published in The Times, revealed the Roman town's layout of streets and buildings.

That led the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society to make a call for public subscriptions to fund excavations at the site.


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In more recent years, the University of Nottingham has carried out excavations, supported by the community-led Caistor Roman Project (CRP), formed some 12 years ago.

In 2019, one of the largest Roman temple buildings in Britain was discovered and volunteers from the CRP will be carrying out further exploration of that site.

Caistor St Edmund Roman Town seen from the air. Pic: Mike Page.

Caistor St Edmund Roman Town seen from the air. Pic: Mike Page. - Credit: Mike Page

They will be focusing on an area where a substantial villa-style building was uncovered in 2018.

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They will be joined by students from the University of Nottingham and University of East Anglia.

And the dig will be filmed for BBC2’s Digging for Britain, the popular archaeology programme fronted by Prof Alice Roberts.

Professor Alice Roberts. Picture: Norwich Science Festival

Prof Alice Roberts. - Credit: Norwich Science Festival

It is hoped the excavations may shed further light on the site’s origin, as previous discoveries of Iron Age finds suggest the temple may have begun as a pre-Roman cult site.

Project director Professor Will Bowden, of the University of Nottingham, said: "The scale of Caistor's temple shows that it was a very important site for the Iceni and it is really exciting to have a further chance to find out more about it."

This will probably be the last year of excavation on the temple field, with future digs planned in nearby locations.

CRP chairman Alan Pask said: “We are delighted to be back excavating the temple site and are especially grateful for the continuing support from Chris and Daniel Skinner of High Ash Farm.

"This a huge exercise for us as a community archaeology group of volunteers but we are sure the results will be well worth the efforts of the many members, volunteers and support staff involved."

The 2009 excavations revealed a 4th Century AD skeleton. Prof Will Bowden with the find. Pic: Antony

The 2009 excavations revealed a 4th Century AD skeleton. Prof Will Bowden with the find. Pic: Antony Kelly. - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

In previous years the project has held open days for members of the public to visit the site, but due to Covid-19, they have decided not to do that this year.

But those who are interested can catch up with daily progress on CRP’s website at www.caistorromanproject.org

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