Did a Roman emperor come to Carlisle? Dig reveals secrets of the past

ITV News Border reporter Tim Backshall learns what Roman treasures the dig has uncovered so far.

An archaeological dig in Carlisle has been named the UK's community archaeology project of the year.

Thought to have once been the site of either a Roman bath, mansion or public house, the Carlisle Cricket Club site has not disappointed in terms of historical significance since it was discovered in 2017.

Excavation led by experts and carried out by volunteers has uncovered weaponry, jewellery and imperial branded tiles.

Archaeologists believe the findings indicate that Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus may have visited the site.

"Not only was this a working bathhouse or civic building but this was one that was commanded by the emperor himself," said Uncovering Roman Carlisle curator Claire Sleightholm.

"There is certainly thought or speculation that the emperor and his family were here in Carlisle 1800 years ago."

The Carlisle excavation site at the city's cricket club was discovered in 2017. Credit: ITV News Border

Run jointly by the Council for British Archaeology and the Marsh Charitable, the Marsh Award for Community Archaeology recognised the project for carrying out "exceptional archaeological work" and helping "to sustain our cultural heritage for future generations."

Archaeologist Frank Giecco called it "community archaeology at its best."

"It’s great for the community," he said. "We’ve got people in Carlisle who are absolutely passionate about the history of Carlisle."

One of hundreds of volunteers, Declan Burton discovered a needle bone and told ITV News Border that the discoveries help provide a link between us and our ancestors.

He said: "Originally I thought it was for sewing clothes but actually it wasn’t it was for putting in hair extensions.

"We think of these people as being completely different from us and they’re not.

People across the North West can see the exhibition as it is going on tour until the autumn when it will return to Carlisle. Credit: ITV News Border

"This entire complex was a place built by a Roman emperor for his wife because he was going on campaign for four years and wanted to keep her sweet."

An exhibition showcasing the finds continues its tour over the summer and autumn, going to Bowness-on-Solway, Brampton, Burgh-by-Sands and The Lanes in Carlisle before finishing off back at Carlisle Cricket Club in October.

The archaeologists have also decided to have a last dig at the site as a celebration weekend before the project ends.

They say less than 20% of the area has been uncovered so far, meaning many more secrets could lay below the surface.

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