Dorset County Museum has been welcoming visitors to its own live, on-site archaeological dig within the museum’s ancient grounds.
To celebrate this and its new All Roads Lead to Durnovaria exhibition (to 30 September) the museum has unveiled a new open-air viewing platform, providing visitors with a prime vantage point from which to oversee the archaeologists as they search for hidden Roman gems.
This important dig marks the beginning of the ‘Tomorrows Museum for Dorset’ redevelopment plans, thanks to a £14.9m Heritage Lottery fund grant, which will culminate in 2020 with the opening of a brand-new museum designed for the 21st century.
Archaeology volunteers have been undertaking pot-washing and cataloguing archaeological finds as they are discovered, and these new treasures will be added to the ever-growing list of Roman artefacts that are found in the museum’s collection.
The area being excavated, to the rear of the museum buildings, is situated in what was the middle of the Roman and medieval town. It was known that archaeological features would be present on the site due to earlier discoveries in this part of Dorchester. Indeed, a workshop built on the site in 1937 cut through part of a Roman Street. Although the site was largely built over in the 19th century, recent archaeological test pits showed there were still some intact archaeological deposits underneath.
Finds from the site include Romano-British black-burnished pottery from the Poole Harbour area and some Samian tableware from France.