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Archaeological dig in U.K. reveals ancient paved Rome backstreet

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 13th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A recent archaeological excavation in the United Kingdom has revealed a Roman backstreet. It's believed that the paved road had been used by some of the first Christians to worship in York.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Archaeologists discovered the paved street during construction of a visitor center in the medieval minster's undercroft. The road is believed to have been used for several centuries and shows signs of having been patched up and repaired over the centuries. The street originally ran behind the Roman basilica, the site of today's Minster.

"While it was not as grandly paved as the main streets of Roman York, you can imagine that this backstreet, situated as it was between the Basilica and the Praetorium, was exactly the kind of place where the real business of the empire was done," the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, the Dean of York says.

"It probably even witnessed the very first Christians on their way to worship."

The backstreet saw heavy use and was very much loved by the original residents. "The backstreet was used for hundreds of years and was frequently patched and repaired, falling into disuse at the same time as the basilica itself," a Minster spokeswoman added.

Excavations were carried out by the York Archaeological Trust as part of the 20 million York Minster Revealed project.

"Before this, there had been no archaeological excavations at York Minster for over 40 years, so it's a huge privilege to be revealing pieces of the past in such an iconic building, all of it contributing to our picture of life in ancient York," Ian Milsted, the trust's Lead Archaeologist says.

Paving from the street that once ran past the Roman basilica in York can be seen centuries after it was last used.

Called Eboracum during the Roman England era, York was founded in 71 A.D. was a major military and economic hub in Britain until the early Fifth Century.

Four human skulls at the location were unearthed in March. Analysis of all the archaeological finds made during the dig is expected to be published early next year.

The Minster dates from 1220 but the first church on the site was built in 627 for the baptism of the Anglo Saxon king Edwin.

The York Minster Revealed project is a five-year scheme designed to conserve and restore historic features while improving access for the public.

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