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Time Team documentary to focus on Caistor St Edmund dig
Caistor St Edmund from the air (Photo by Mike Page)
It will be the first time in 75 years that the internal site has been examined

The Roman town at Caistor St Edmund is the subject of a new archaeological dig, which will be featured in a Time Team documentary on Channel 4.

It is the first time anybody has dug inside the walls of the settlement, south of Norwich, for 75 years.

"What we really hope to discover is how the site started and when it started," said dig leader Dr Will Bowden from the University of Nottingham.

The dig starts on 21 August 2010 and is open for public viewing.

The archaeological importance of Caistor is down to the ease of accessing the site.

"It's one of only three Roman towns in the country that haven't got modern settlements on top of them," said Dr Bowden.

"Caistor is the one of those three that we know least about," he added.

Tantalising glimpses

Digging inside the town boundaries will further understanding of the site

The former settlement has been subject to digs before but these have taken place outside of the walls.

Previous digs have revealed tantalising glimpses into the site's history.

"Last year we were digging outside of the town and we found one of the town's cemeteries, including a very weird looking burial, which excited quite a lot of interest at the time," said Dr Bowden.

While still providing important information about the town, digging within the walls will allow archaeologists to delve deeper into the history and day to day running of Roman Caistor.

"We want to know whether there was an Iron Age settlement underneath it and also when the Roman streets were actually laid out, because we really don't know," said Dr Bowden.

Protected site

Despite the openness of the site, very little research has been done in comparison with other Roman sites around the country.

This is partly down to the fact that Caistor is a protected site.

Many archaeological sites are discovered during development of the land, meaning that any research has to be carried out over a set time before it is built over.

Caistor's status means that the site will never be built on, which in turn means that any research has to be planned in depth.

"We need to have some really clear research questions before we're allowed to dig there," said Dr Bowden.

4th Century skeleton found at Caistor St Edmund, Norfolk
A complete skeleton was unearthed on the site in September 2009

He also believes the settlement's oversight is due to a misconception in people's understanding of the Romans in Norfolk.

"I think the Romans in Norfolk are quite often seen as something that isn't as much a part of Norfolk's history as, for example, the Iceni, with the wonderful torques from Snettisham.

"Perhaps there hasn't been quite the interest in the site as there might have been."

The Roman town of Venta Icenorum (Caistor St Edmund) - probably meaning "Market Town of the Iceni" - is thought to have been established in the aftermath of Boudicca's failed rebellion of AD60-61.

Time Team

Time Team's involvement will not be their usual format of a three-day dig.

Funds for the research have been raised by the University of Nottingham and partly through Caistor Roman Project Ltd - a charitable company set up to help the work.

A special Time Team documentary will follow the dig, with input from Tony Robinson and other crew members who will periodically visit the site.

Visitors to the site are welcome and there will be an opportunity to watch the dig, as well as examine some of the finds.

Archaeologists are also marking out the streets of the Roman town, giving people the chance to get a feel of the original layout.

The dig at Caistor St Edmund runs from Saturday, 21 August until Saturday, 11 September 2010.

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