Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 12:58 UK

Carlisle Castle's decade dig is completed

Excavation at Carlisle Castle
It is thought the Roman army lived in tents at first

An internationally important archaeological dig in Carlisle has unearthed rare articulated armour and a nit comb, with a louse still in it.

The dig, which took place over a decade in front of Carlisle Castle, has uncovered about 80,000 Roman artefacts.

The evidence provides Carlisle with almost 2,000 years of documented history.

Experts say the city is now ranked as one of the most important settlements in the north of England.

Senior executive officer for Oxford Archaeology North, Rachel Newman, said: "The area was very damp 2,000 years ago, and therefore rare evidence survived for how the Romans and their medieval successors lived, in the form of the foundations for their timber buildings, as well as parts of Roman tents and saddles, their shoes, and wooden and leather possessions.

"Many thousands of objects were excavated, including less fragile material, such as pottery, metalwork, both jewellery and everyday utensils, coins, and stone objects."

A rare neck-guard
Fragile material was uncovered in the excavation

"All this evidence provided a wonderful glimpse into how people lived 2,000 years ago, and also in medieval Carlisle, more than 1,000 years later.

"For instance, several nit combs very like the ones we sometimes have to use today were found, one with a human louse in it!

"We could also see from the numbers of bones that the Romans liked beef, and particularly shoulders of meat, that had perhaps been salted or smoked."

She said the evidence suggested that the Roman army arrived in Carlisle, living in tents to begin with, until the first fort was built.

She added: "A very substantial and important town grew up around the Roman fort, beneath the medieval and modern city, and was the only settlement in the north of England to have civitas´ status, which means it had a self-governing council, just as it has today."

It is believed the site was used through the Dark Ages, although it was difficult to trace what what went on there after 1092 when King William II England built the first medieval castle within the Roman fort.

Carlisle Castle's Tuille House Museum and Art Gallery is to open a new Roman gallery to display the material from the project in 2011.

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