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20 January 2009
Colchester probably was a major settlement 2,000 years ago

Vital evidence has been discovered which could prove Colchester (Essex, England) was a major settlement more than 2,000 years ago. Experts from the Colchester Archaeological Trust have been digging at Colchester Institute which is undergoing a radical £92 million redevelopment. And they have found artefacts which show Colchester, Britain's oldest recorded town, may have existed as a thriving settlement in the first century BCE.
     Philip Crummy, director and chief archaeologist of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, said evidence, including coins, already existed that Colchester dated back to about 25 BCE. But now discoveries at the college lead them to believe there was significant occupation in the town at that time. Among the finds at the college are a wooden paddle which was preserved for thousands of years by being waterlogged. Archaeologists have also found what they believe to be burnt bread and a collection of glass game counters. Ankles shackles or handcuffs, which might have been used to restrain prisoners, have also been found on site.
     Mr Crummy said: "At the college site, there is more settlement activity than we expected. The road going through with buildings either side has remains of industrial activities such as metal work. It is a site which was to do with manufacturing and trading. I think the evidence we have found at Sheepen Place means we can push back occupation to the 1st century BCE which was long expected but for which we had no evidence."
     Historic evidence was first found during major excavations at Sheepen Place in the 1930s but archaeologists are now exploring the site which is being currently being redeveloped. Mr Crummy said: "We have found evidence the site started earlier than originally thought. It had been thought that it had been founded in the 1st century CE but it looks as it went back to the 1st century BCE."

Source: Essex County Standard (16 January 2009)

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