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Brian still in town looking for more Roman treasures

By This is Kent  |  Posted: July 23, 2010

  • History: Archaeologist Brian Philp with part of a Roman altar discovered in Dover DOSC160710Roman

  • Ancient: The house's interior

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the discovery of Roman remains in the centre of Dover.

In the summer of 1970, work was under way on the York Street bypass and a team of experts was drafted in from the Roman fort at Reculver for an eight-week rapid excavation of the site before the road was built.

As they dug they discovered a Roman fort and one of the best-preserved examples of ancient interior design, the famous Roman Painted House, which has been open to tourists for more than 30 years. The archaeologists assumed theirs would be only a brief visit to the town, but incredibly one of their number is still working at the site four decades later.

Brian Philp, now director of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit, was among the team who first came to Dover all those years ago.

He said: "We had a good idea that Dover had a priceless heritage, mostly buried under 25 feet of silt and debris. Our discoveries have been spectacular and are of international importance."

The first discovery they made was a fort built around AD 270, whose discovery had been predicted by renowned archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler. Wheeler went on to become a regular visitor to the site.

Another fort was also found, this time dating from AD 130 and built by the Classis Britannica, the Roman navy.

Finally they unearthed the painted house, complete with painted plaster showing motifs related to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.

Special events are being staged at the visitor centre this weekend to mark the anniversary, including lectures by some of those involved in the discoveries. A spokesman said: "We hope that many of the 800 volunteers and supporters who have helped us over the years will be able to attend this special weekend."

For more information about the celebrations, call 01304 203279.

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