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Archaeologists hoping to unearth long lost secrets at ancient Roman temple near Norwich

PUBLISHED: 13:10 19 August 2018 | UPDATED: 13:10 19 August 2018

Archeologists and volunteers working at Venta Icenorum during the open weekend.
Photo: Bill Smith

Archeologists and volunteers working at Venta Icenorum during the open weekend. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

Archaeologists are hoping an ancient temple will be key to revealing further secrets about our county’s fascinating Roman past.

Some early pottery and bone finds at Venta Icenorum.Photo: Steve AdamsSome early pottery and bone finds at Venta Icenorum.Photo: Steve Adams

The temple is buried around 700m north-east of the Roman town of Venta Icenorum at Caistor St Edmund, near Norwich.

Archaeologists believe that the site’s excavation will help shed more light on the Roman occupation of the area.

Project director Will Bowden said: “One of the big mysteries of Caistor [Roman town] is why the town is where it is.

“Although the temple now appears to be quite a way from the Roman town, we really need to consider it as a key part of Venta Icenorum.

Teams of volunteers digging around the modern village of Caistor St Edmund, near Norwich close to the Roman town of Venta Icenorum to understand the extent of the settlement. Photo: Steve AdamsTeams of volunteers digging around the modern village of Caistor St Edmund, near Norwich close to the Roman town of Venta Icenorum to understand the extent of the settlement. Photo: Steve Adams

“Some of the previous finds suggest that activity at the temple may stretch back into the pre-Roman period and thus be earlier than the town itself.”

The temple, located off Caistor Lane, is within a 200m by 150m walled enclosure.

Excavations will also cover a larger building at the site, known as the priest’s house, which has never been investigated before.

Mr Bowden, who is an associate professor of Roman archeology at Nottingham University, said: “The whole thing sits off a big Roman road that runs diagonally from the Roman town, and the temple would have been a key feature as you go in.

“The clue as to the early foundations of what was going on in this area really lies in the temple site.

“Previous coin finds there suggest there was quite a lot of activity pre-dating the Roman town.”

Mr Bowden said the walls around the town were built quite late in its history, around the 3rd century.

The temple meanwhile is believed to be from the 2nd century.

The archaeological work is part of an £84,000 three-year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Caistor Roman Town is one of only three Roman regional capitals in the UK undisturbed by later development.

It is a site of national importance and a major cultural and educational resource for the region.

Excavations will be carried out by the Caistor Roman Project, which is a community archeology team.

Public tours of the site will take place on Sunday, August 26 at 11am, 2pm and 3pm. Parking is available at the Caistor Hall Hotel.

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