Excavation of Roman Cemetery nominated for national archaeology award

For the second year running a project led by Leicester archaeologists has been nominated in the Current Archaeology Awards, this year in the category ‘Rescue Project of the Year’.

The award recognises a project that has unearthed skeletons that could be the earliest examples of African people living in Leicester.

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An archaeologist excavates one of the skeletons in the Roman cemetery at Western Road.

The project, ‘Buried between Road and River: Investigating a Roman cemetery in Leicester’ (reported on in Current Archaeology Issue 319), investigated part of a large Roman cemetery in Leicester’s West End. Between 2010 and 2015, archaeologists from University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) carried out a series of excavations at the former ‘Equity Shoes’ factory on Western Road as part of its ongoing redevelopment.

83 skeletons were discovered, dating from the 2nd century AD through to the 4th century. Many were buried with grave goods or exhibit burial customs not previously seen in Leicester, and tantalisingly, a number possibly have African ancestry, the first evidence ever found for Leicester’s ‘migrant’ population. The project is giving archaeologists a wealth of exciting new insights into life in the Roman town, whose inhabitants were perhaps as diverse and multicultural as those who reside in the modern city.

The results of the competition are decided on a public vote which has now opened and can be accessed from the Current Archaeology Awards webpage

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The Roman belt-set found buried with a late Roman official, comprising a belt buckle, belt plate and strap end.

The nomination is the fourth for the University of Leicester in the past five years. In 2013 the University was awarded ‘Research Project of the Year’ for the Grey Friars Project and the discovery of Richard III. The following year Dr Richard Buckley, Lead Archaeologist on the Greyfriars Project, was awarded ‘Archaeologist of the Year’ and in 2016 the School of Archaeology and Ancient History’s summer fieldschool at Burrough Hill Iron Age Hillfort was nominated for ‘Research Project of the Year’.

A small exhibition of finds from the excavation will be on display in the foyer of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History through December and January.