Page last updated at 12:31 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 13:31 UK

Iron age town found at Roman site

Archaeologists think the town was destroyed at the hands of Boudicca

Archaeologists from Berkshire say they have discovered evidence of an Iron Age town underneath the remains of a Roman settlement in north Hampshire.

The University of Reading's Archaeology Department has been excavating at the Silchester Roman site, Calleva Atrebatum, since 1997.

Now the team believe they have found evidence of one of Britain's earliest Iron Age towns with a planned layout.

A street-grid was found to have been in place before the Romans came in AD 43.

Archaeologists have also discovered evidence of widespread burning at the site.

Town burnt down

They believe this, along with other finds, suggests the site could have been destroyed at the hands of queen Boudicca, who in AD 60/61 led a major uprising against the occupying Roman forces.

Professor Michael Fulford, director of the Silchester Town Life Project, said: "After 12 summers of excavation we have reached down to the 1st Century AD and are beginning to see the first signs of what we believe to be the Iron Age and earliest Roman town.

Roman pot found at Silchester
They want to find out what changed when the town became Roman

"The discovery of the underlying Iron Age settlement is extremely exciting.

"While there are traces of settlement beneath Roman Verulamium (today's St Albans) and Canterbury and close to the site of Roman Colchester, none of these resembles the evidence that we have here at Calleva of a planned town."

The completely new street grid implemented later by the Romans could have been a "thumbs down on the British arrangement", he said.

Prof Fulford added: "We now have evidence that the town was burnt down sometime after AD 50 and before AD 80.

"The possibility that this was at the hands of Boudicca when leading the largest British uprising during the Roman occupation is hugely significant. It was not thought the revolt passed this way."

Visitors can watch the excavation in progress at the site every day except Fridays, until 9 August.

The site has been studied for more than a decade

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