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One of the largest temples in Roman Britain discovered near Norwich

PUBLISHED: 10:47 13 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:09 14 September 2020

A reconstuction painting of the Roman temple found at Caistor St Edmund. Picture: Jenny Press

A reconstuction painting of the Roman temple found at Caistor St Edmund. Picture: Jenny Press

Archant

Archeologists have uncovered “one of the largest” Roman temple buildings in Britain on the outskirts of Norwich.

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

The foundations of a 20m by 20m temple at Caistor St Edmund were found following a dig by the community archaeology group Caistor Roman Project.

The temple, which was built by the Iceni tribe, would have been up to 12m high and viewable from Harford Park and Ride if it still stood today.

An aerial photograph of the Roman temple site at Caistor St Edmund. Picture: D. Edwards. Copyright Norfolk County Council Historic Environment ServiceAn aerial photograph of the Roman temple site at Caistor St Edmund. Picture: D. Edwards. Copyright Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service

It was discovered after a three-week excavation about 800m north east of Venta Icenorum, which was the largest Roman town in East Anglia.

But the existence of the temple, which dates back to the latter part of the first century AD, has been known since the 1950s.

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

Professor Will Bowden said: “It has always been known there was a big temple site as it was seen from aerial photographs and a monumental gateway to the temple precint was found by accident in 1959.

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“However, a good reason to disturb the site through excavation was needed and, at this point, it was felt it was really important to try to date and understand the complex.

“The confirmation of the site means that we have to consider this temple, which would have been on of the largest in Roman Britain, as an integral part of that Roman landscape.

At the temple Romans would have worshiped and left offerings to Gods such as Mercury, Venus and Neptune.

Professor Bowden said it would have been a “major focal point” and linked to the town by a large road which lies underneath the Caistor Hall Hotel.

He said: “The temple was developed in two phases. The first smaller temple would have been built in latter part of the first century AD. But then it was rebuilt on a massive scale in the middle to later second century AD.

“Venta Icenorum has always been remarked on for being a rather small Roman town with small public buildings. But the size of this temple shows there was clear concern for this site.”

The Caistor Roman Project will resume digs next year with the focus on understanding the wider temple development, including a villa like building.

A new guide book on Venta Icenorum written by Professor Bowden can be purchased here.


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