Lost Roman settlement in Britain found using Google Maps – including forgotten villa with walls still visible

ARCHAEOLOGISTS digging at a Roman settlement say they've made "substantial" finds after investigating the area using Google Earth.

The team were carrying out excavations near the village of Scalford, Leicestershire, when they turned to the digital map service to search for hints of buried structures.

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Sections of a Roman villa were found at the site in 2003 and 2004, but its full size was unknown.

Prehistoric stone tools were also discovered nearby, suggesting settlements had long stood in the local area.

After the latest survey, the team at Past to Present Archaeology believe many more buildings may be buried at the site.

Excavation director Rupert Birtwhistle told BBC News: "The villa was large enough that it went off the edge of the surveying area.

"And while we did not find any obvious prehistoric traces, it was a complete surprise to come across the Romano-British settlement."

He added: "We just went with a hunch after looking at the site on Google Earth."

Researchers went to the site last year with tools that can scan underground for the remains of walls and other structures.

Excavations at the new area have revealed the locations of ditches and enclosures, as well as uncovering a section of Roman wall.

The discovery of new structures suggests the site was once a "substantial" settlement, researchers explained.

Mr Birtwhistle said: "For this settlement to possess buildings means that it was substantial, but we need more work to examine its connection to the villa.

"We will be examining this further over the coming years."

The team hopes to return to the site next year to continue excavations. They're crowdfunding the next phase of the project.

A brief history of the Roman Empire

Here’s what you need to know…

  • The Roman Empire began shortly after the founding of the Roman Republic in the 6th century BC
  • It reigned for around a thousand years until the fall of the last Western emperor in 476 AD
  • During this time, the Romans ruled over many countries in Europe and parts of Africa and the Middle East
  • At its height, 90 million people lived in the Roman Empire
  • It evolved from a monarchy to a democratic republic to a military dictatorship and then was finally ruled by emperors
  • One of the most well-known Roman leaders is Julius Caesar, famously assassinated in 44BC
  • He is largely credited for his military mind and laying the foundations for the Roman Empire
  • The spread of the Roman Empire into Britain in around 55 BC has had a lasting impact on our lives today
  • Latin, straight roads, underfloor heating and the spread of Christianity are all attributed to the Romans

In other news, experts have wiped centuries of dust and dirt from an ancient cross pedant discovered in a field in western Scotland.

A secret stash of gold coins dating back to King Henry VIII's reign have been found in an English garden.

And, an ancient elite warrior and a Greek battle helmet have been unearthed from a rock-cut tomb in Croatia.

What do you make of the Leicestershire find? Let us know in the comments…

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