University of Leicester digs up Roman cemetery under another car park
The University of Leicester archaeological unit that discovered King Richard III has now found a 1,700-year-old Roman cemetery under another car park in Leicester.
The find has revealed remains thought to date back to 300AD and includes personal items such as hairpins, rings, belt buckles and remains of shoes.
In addition, the team has found a jet ring with a curious symbol etched onto it, apparently showing the letters IX overlain.
Opinion as to its meaning is divided; it may just be an attractive design but it is also reminiscent of an early Christian symbol known as an IX (Iota-Chi) monogram taken from the initials of Jesus Christ in Greek.
The archaeologists have also identified the unusual practice of Christian burials alongside pagan burials. In total, they have identified 13 sets of remains at the car park in Oxford Street in Leicester's historic city centre.
Archaeological Project Officer John Thomas told Rex Features: "We have discovered new evidence about a known cemetery that existed outside the walled town of Roman Leicester during the 3rd-4th Centuries AD.
"Roman law forbade burial within the town limits so cemeteries developed outside the walls, close to well-used roads.
"Previous excavations on Newarke Street had discovered numerous burials to the immediate east and north of the present site, all of which appeared to have been buried according to Christian traditions - buried in a supine position, facing east with little or no grave goods.
"Unusually the 13 burials found during the recent excavations, of mixed age and sex, displayed a variety of burial traditions including east to west & north to south oriented graves, many with personal items such as finger rings, hairpins, buckles and hob-nailed shoes."
Thomas added: "In contrast a nearby and probably near contemporary grave appeared to indicate very different beliefs. This grave had a north-south orientation, with the body laid on its side in a semi-foetal position, with the head removed and placed near the feet alongside two complete pottery jars that would have held offerings for the journey to the afterlife. This would seem to be a very pagan burial, so it is possible from the variety of burials found that the cemetery catered for a range of beliefs that would have been important to people living in Leicester at this time."
The site is currently earmarked for development.
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