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Saturday, 4 May 2013

The day I met the Romans

It's quite exciting getting a scoop. Following a  tip off, I was in another Leicester car park in mid April. With archaeologists from the University of Leicester..
They'd found bones.
Oh, talk about deja vu! But no, they weren't searching for another King.
John Thomas and his team were in the car park of the old Antiques  Centre on the corner of Oxford Street and Newarke Street....where I've parked my car many a time when spending a wet afternoon hunting down old and vintage treasures. The antiques centre has lain empty for a number of years now....and the whole site is going to be developed , building extra accomodation for  students at De Montfort University.
John is on the left...this is in the first trench, only feet from the car park gates. Almost immediately John and his team found at least ten bodies...and he suspected others were hiding.
I was standing in a cemetery ....a Roman cemetery from 300 to 400 AD.


In the last few weeks John has found another three bodies, so thirteen were in the car park in total. Both men and women, they had different types of burials.including east to west and north to south-oriented graves, many with personal items such as hobnailed shoes. But some of the Roman burial traditions seem strange to us today. One of the bodies found had been decapitated ...and the head put on the body.

In Roman times, burials were not allowed within the town gates ...and the location , just outside the town walls was a busy southern suburb at the time.

The people buried here may have lived approximately one thousand and seven hundred years ago, but as you can see from the next photograph , the history that divides us is so close....a mere  four or five feet deep away.

It was a privilege to see the early part of the dig...and to be within hand touching distance of those who lived and died so long ago. John  is used to this now, but I'm not, and it was an eerie feeling.
watching them as they lay open to the elements after so many hundreds of years undisturbed underground.  I said a prayer for them as I left.

Do have a listen to my interview with John Thomas hear more about the dig, and the mediaeval finds on the site too.
And the track for today is from the Cure..."Sleep when I'm dead"....


  1. That's fascinating. I used to go antique hunting there too, by the way. It's almost discourteous to disturb them after all this time, especially as it seems that they were buried respectfully, unlike the hasty way that Richard III was buried.

  2. Yes they were initially buried respectfully Ros, but they have been treated respectfully now too , and with great care by the University of Leicester team.....