Excavation site in Leicester’s (UK) city centre covered almost two thirds of a Roman city block, revealing remains of a street, and a house once floored with a mosaic.
The excavation is conducted prior to development of apartments at the site. Modern rubble and Victorian garden soil are being removed from the footprint of the proposed building to expose the Medieval and Roman archaeology. The excavation covers nearly two-thirds of an insula – city block, of the former Roman town, revealing so far a Roman street and three Roman buildings.
Two ranges of rooms flanked by a corridor or portico appear to surround a courtyard. At least one room had Roman underfloor heating – hypocaustum, indicating the structure being likely a large townhouse. A cambered gravel street runs north of the building, across the site of excavations. Roadside ditches and boundary walls have been identified, but no substantial buildings are present. Evidence for copper working has been found in the area, perhaps suggesting commercial or industrial activity taking place along the street.
A second Roman house has been found on the eastern side the site. There is evidence for mosaic floors in at least three of its rooms, and one of the mosaic fragments measures some 2m by 3m, roughly about a quarter of the original floor. It is one of the largest pieces of mosaic pavement found in Leicester in the last 30 years. According to the archaeologists the mosaic dates to the early fourth century AD. It would have originally been in a square room in the house. It has a thick border of red tiles surrounding a central square of grey tiles. Picked out in red in the grey square are several decorations, including a geometric border, foliage and a central hexafoil cross. The intricate geometric border follows a pattern known as swastika-meander.
The third house, found in the centre of the site, has a large sunken room or cellar, and it possibly has a small apse (semi-circular niche) attached to one side. Currently, the building’s purpose is still unidentified, but sunken rooms are relatively unusual in the Roman period.
(after Heritage Daily, ITV, Mathew Morris, University of Leicester, Live Science & Leicester Mercury)