Archaeology find: Ancient ‘rare’ Roman playing piece discovered on building site

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The artefact was discovered by researchers working alongside council workers on the Northgate development in Chester. Made from bone, the game piece was found alongside a handful of separate Roman relics. Some of the other items included a comb, a possible spearhead and a pin or broach.

Andrew Davison, Inspector of Ancient Monuments from Historic England, said the finds “will excite great interest”.

The remains will be added to an existing collection of Roman relics at a local museum.

The game piece, shaped like a lozenge, is just over an inch long.

It was found highly polished.

Archaeologists say this is as a result of constant use.

The piece also features a common Roman ring and dot motif.

Experts have linked it to Ludus Latrunculorum, meaning the Game of Mercenaries.

This was a two-player military strategy board game played throughout the Roman Empire.

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It is believed that the game was similar to modern-day draughts.

A council spokesman said finding it in part of a legionary barracks in Chester would back up this theory.

Deeper trenches, intended to be used as drains for the new development, led to the discoveries.

Chester Northgate is a development of “open streets” according to the project’s website.


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It will house a new market hall, cinema, and restaurant, all due to open in around two years time.

Contractor VINCI Construction UK and archaeologists Oxford Archaeology have been working together as the site progresses.

The archaeologists paritucallry have been carefully excavating the site for signs of Roman life and other historical artefacts, according to Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Councillor Richard Beacham said: “We will be treading very carefully to protect the sensitive archaeological remains on the site and we will be adding anything we find to our impressive collection of Roman artefacts at the Grosvenor Museum.”

Chester was founded by the Romans as a fort in 70 AD.

Back then, it was known as Deva Victrix.

It came as the Romans pushed into the north of England in order to expand the Empire.

It was named Deva either after the goddess of the Dee or directly from the British name for the river with the ‘victrix’ drawn from the Legio XX Valeria Victrix which was based at the fort.

After the Romans withdrew from Britain, Chester is thought to have come under the Kingdom of Powys.

The city became the scene of many battles between warring Welsh and Saxon kingdoms in the post-Roman years.

The Saxons eventually secured the fort and bolstered it against the raiding Danes in the latter half of the 1st millennium.

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