Archaeologists recently discovered what appears to be a Roman shrine buried beneath Leicester Cathedral’s former graveyard, BBC reported Tuesday.
Researchers found the shrine during excavations associated with the building of a new cultural learning center at the cathedral, according to the outlet. The $12,700,000 project has already uncovered thousands of artifacts since Jan. 2022.
The most recent find included a broken altar base, which archeologists found in what is thought to have been the basement of a larger Roman building on the site. The discovery suggests that England’s inhabitants have been worshipping at the site for potentially thousands of years.
“There’s always been a tradition that the cathedral was built on a Roman temple, based on antiquarian discoveries in the 19th century,” site excavation director Mathew Morris told the University of Leicester. “We’re now finding a Roman building that looks like it had a shrine status to it. There are no tests that can prove what it was. That it was a shrine is the most likely theory, but there aren’t really any others.” He suggested Mithra, Dionysus and Isis as potential deities that may have been worshipped at the site.
Other finds have included Roman coins, a hair pin, the remains of a brooch and Gaulish pottery, BBC noted. The most recent dig occurred just 164 feet away from where the body of King Richard III was discovered in 2012. (RELATED: Study Hints At How Ancient Civilizations Traveled The World)
“It’s only a tiny little area of Leicester, but the material we’ve recovered from it, the burials, the Roman archaeology underneath, are going to be a key insight into the city,” he noted. Julius Caesar briefly invaded Britain in 55 B.C., and the emperor Claudius returned to conquer the island around 90 years later. Much of England and the British Isles were colonized by Roman invaders, with only areas such as Wales and parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland remaining untouched.