Archaeology gems dating back 2,000 years go on show

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IT PROVIDES one of the clearest snapshots yet as to the archaeological importance of York by charting the city’s 2,000-year history from excavations at a single site.

The first exhibition of its kind will be unveiled to the public this weekend to showcase some of the tens of thousands of artefacts unearthed in the biggest archaeological dig in the city for more than 20 years.

It is the first time that Roman, Viking, medieval and post-medieval items taken from one site will be put on public display in the city.

Experts from York Archaeological Trust oversaw the dig ahead of the Hungate development – the largest since the Coppergate excavations that led to the creation of the city’s Jorvik Viking Centre.

The Hungate dig unearthed evidence of a Roman cemetery with 120 burial sites as well as a lively district from the Viking era. The area was also used as a medieval city dump and a post-medieval market gardens before becoming a tight-knit working class community during the Victorian era. The Hungate area featured in social investigator Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree’s famous research published in 1901 that delved into the issue of poverty in York.

The YAT’s project director, Peter Connelly, said: “It is fascinating to see how this specific area of York has evolved over the last 2,000 years.

“The baton of the past has now been passed on to another community with the development of the Hungate area - but their lives will ultimately become someone else’s archaeology in the future.”

Some of the most fascinating finds include Roman era skeletons and rare Roman jet jewellery – the first of its kind to be found in York for more than a century.

Viking and medieval pottery and jewellery are on show along with an exquisitely carved 14th century stone corbel.

The remains of Viking cellar buildings and 1,000-year-old ice skates made from bone will also be included in the exhibition, along with a tiny Middle Eastern glass bead traded across thousands of miles at the end of the first millennium AD.

The Looking Back at Hungate exhibition will open at the YAT’s DIG attraction from Saturday and will run until April next year.