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Now look what they've found under a car park

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Archaeologists have discovered a 1,700-year-old cemetery in the city – beneath another car park.

The University of Leicester hit the headlines last year when it unearthed the remains of King Richard III which were buried under a city council car park.

Now, archaeologists from the university have identified 13 sets of remains, thought to date back to about 300AD, at a car park in Oxford Street, near the Magazine.

The site is believed to be a Roman burial ground and includes a number of personal items, such as rings, hairpins, belt buckles and remains of shoes.

Project officer John Thomas said the site was significant because the team had found both Christian and Pagan graves.

"We were surprised by this," he said. "It's quite a juxtaposition of traditions, so it may be that we've found an area of a cemetery where they mixed religious beliefs."

The cemetery, which held the bodies of men and women of varying ages, lies outside the boundary of the old Roman town, as Christian burials were not permitted inside the walls.

Among the finds was the skeleton os a young person with a ring with a Christian symbol etched into it.

Close by was another body, which had the head taken from the shoulders and placed by the feet.

"The head had been removed, and it was one of two bodies which had been buried facing north to south," said John.

"All Christian burials were buried facing east and nicely ordered.

"The polished jet ring we found on one of the skeletons had the letters IX (Iota Chi) inscribed – which represent the initials of Jesus Christ in Greek.

"We're just waiting for it to be authenticated. The same skeleton had an iron ring on."

The project was first conceived in about 2006, after maps of the area were studied and the site was identified as being of interest.

Now, developers are planning to build student flats on the site and John and the team have had to carry out the work before it was too late.

The applicants, Thomas May & Co, plan to build 353 student flats on the car park, as well as demolish existing buildings.

John said: "We excavated three areas, we had to carry out the dig now because the area is under threat of development."

Oxford Street would have been the main route into Roman Leicester from the south, said John.

The team of four from the university also found a number of medieval artefacts and a 17th century civil war trench – used to defend the town.

"It all helps to flesh out the picture of Leicester through the years," said John.

Now look what they've  found under a car park


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