SILCHESTER’S Roman heritage is back in the spotlight after a new archaeological dig began last week to unearth Iron Age settlements.
After receiving funding to the tune of £1m by the Calleva Foundation, a new University of Reading study aims to explore Iron Age settlements across some 100 square kilometres of the landscape around Calleva Atrebatum – Silchester’s Roman town.
In 2008, a team from the university’s archaeology department, overseen by Professor Michael Fulford, pictured, discovered the first evidence of an Iron Age town in Britain, and, in the subsequent five seasons, a succession of great Iron Age halls began to emerge.
Further exciting discoveries have included a giant building 50m long – the biggest example of an Iron Age house ever found in Britain.
The only buildings similar to these have been found in northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Professor Fulford said his team would be excavating two sites, continuing work in Insula III, inside the Roman town walls and also at Pond Farm, an Iron Age hillfort, about one kilometre north-west of the town.
He added that he was was thrilled after work began on the new project.
He said: “Our excavation of Silchester Roman town has provided an unparalleled picture of Britain during its early Roman occupation.
“Exploring Iron Age Calleva, however, has been tantalisingly out of reach – until now.
“The story of Roman Silchester may have ended, for now, but the tale of Iron Age Calleva is just beginning.”
The study also aims to shed light on whether the settlement of Silchester’s Roman town was established from a growing local population, or through French immigrants in the first century BC.
The University of Reading’s 18-year excavation, The Silchester Roman Town Life Project, at the Insula IX site, came to a close last summer.
Fascinating finds during the dig have provided a unique insight into life during early Roman Britain.
During the new, five-year project, Prof Fulford and his team will also research and publish the finds from the Silchester Town Life Project.
The public can visit the sites between Monday and Friday up until September 11 – Sat Nav reference RG7 2HP.
A family open day also takes place between 10am and 4.30pm on Sunday, September 13.