Artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age have been unearthed during an archaeological dig at the site of Chester’s brand new cultural centre.
Construction of Chester’s major new cultural centre is under way, before any building work could commence archaeologists from Cheshire West and Chester Council and Earthworks Archaeology, in close consultation with English Heritage, uncovered vital information about Chester’s Roman military occupation. The archaeologists were ably assisted by enthusiastic volunteers who welcomed the opportunity to get involved in the dig and experience the thrill of finding artefacts that have not seen the light of day for almost two thousand years.
Hidden beneath the basement floor of Commerce House, the cobbles and pebbles of an important Roman road were revealed. Stone-lined roadside drains and intriguing glimpses of mysterious side alleys between the remains of Roman buildings have added to the story of Chester’s Roman history. Rubbish pits offer a good source of information about the past and many, from the Roman period through to the 18th century, have been excavated.
Little is known of this part of the Roman fortress. Although the remains were in poor condition and only survived in pockets, the information from the dig will help answer questions about the function and development of the Roman buildings that once stood here. The archaeologists have been right down, at the level of the foundation of the Roman fortress.
Amongst the finds was an arrowhead dating back to the Bronze Age, ceramic building materials – probably roof tiles – produced at Holt, North Wales and stamped with the monogram of the 20th Legion – reading ‘LEG XXVV’. Roman mould-decorated bowls called ‘Samian ware’, imported from Gaul (modern France), a 17th century chamber pot, found intact in a rubbish pit (the archaeologists have revealed some of its contents were still intact). Also amongst the discoveries a 19th century clay tobacco pipe
which shows the design of the fleur-de-lis (or Prince of Wales feathers), recovered from a backfilled basement.
The story of the dig and its artefacts will be exhibited on hoardings located in front of the site on Hunter Street. Chester Library are also looking to exhibit the finds in their public area.
Photos Mark Carline for RE:NEW