TV team uncover four Roman temples near St Albans

PUBLISHED: 11:48 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:51 06 May 2010

The aerial view taken in the 1976 drought showing the outline of the remains (copyright: St Albans Museum)

The aerial view taken in the 1976 drought showing the outline of the remains (copyright: St Albans Museum)

ROMAN temples have been unearthed in local farmland by a TV archaeology team. Channel Four s Time Team excavated the historic remains of what are believed to have been four temples in Friars Wash, an area of land just outside Redbourn and off of the A5.

Time Team presenter Tony Robinson -- waiting for years for such a find

ROMAN temples have been unearthed in local farmland by a TV archaeology team.

Channel Four's Time Team excavated the historic remains of what are believed to have been four temples in Friars Wash, an area of land just outside Redbourn and off of the A5.

It is the first discovery of its kind in the 15-year history of the programme and more than 150 potential sites across Britain have been explored during that time.

The programme showing the discovery was aired last Sunday evening. Time Team presenter Tony Robinson said: "It's like a London bus - you wait for years for one to come along and then you get not one, not two, not even three, but four at the same time."

The ground-breaking find was made over three days in the late summer after the district's archaeologist Simon West provided Time Team with aerial photographs of the site taken in the dry summer of 1976.

Clearly-defined cropmarks in the photos showed outlines indicating that the structure of a typical Romano-British temple with inner cells surrounded by an outer wall was beneath the surface.

Archaeologists uncovered exactly that during excavation along with a circular structure and a rectangular feature, both of which are also thought to be Roman temples.

One theory divulged in the programme was that the temple was used to worship water gods as there are springs and a river nearby.

As well as the temples, a number of other artefacts were found in the dig which showed the site was in use from the first century AD.

The items included an enamelled brooch and copper coins which would have been offered to the gods. One finely preserved coin dated from the reign of Constantine, the emperor who converted both himself and the empire to Christianity.

Third-century pottery was found on the floor in the circular structure as well as a coin on a well-preserved section of mosaic floor within it.

Also found were "curse tablets" - rolled lead strips inscribed with wishes for good fortune or pleas to the gods to punish those responsible for various crimes.

An unusual naturally-shaped stone which resembled a head with two eye sockets and a skull-shaped surface was also unearthed.

The archaeologists speculated that it may have been a sacred stone image of the deity for whom the temple was built which could have been in one of the structures.

Simon West said that it had been clear for many years what lay beneath the field but that the funds were not available to excavate it.

He said that only one per cent of the entire site has been uncovered by the Time Team and he hoped that in the future the remainder could be excavated and opened to the public -- but this would be subject to huge amounts of funding being available.

The items found in the dig are currently in the possession of Wessex Archaeology and where they will be held in the future is currently unknown.


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