A BASINGSTOKE museum will showcase incredible finds from excavations at the Roman site of Silchester five decades on from the start of the archaeological dig.

The new exhibition begins its tour at the Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery in Basingstoke on Saturday, February 10, and will close on Sunday, April 28.

Visitors to Becoming Roman – Silchester, a Town of Change, will be transported back 2,000 years to discover what life was like for the French tribe that established the settlement, and how this life changed after the Roman Conquest of Britain.

Basingstoke Gazette: Excavations in SilchesterProfessor Michael Fulford, of the University of Reading, is the director of the Silchester Town Life Project.

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He said: “It is wonderful to contribute to an exhibition which showcases some of the great discoveries from the University of Reading's excavations at Silchester. The objects on display range from those illustrating the international contacts of the Iron Age town beneath the Romans to those that show how life changed after the Roman conquest.

“I am extremely grateful for the huge contribution that generations of our students and local volunteers have made to the success of the excavations over the past 50 years.”

Among the 150 objects on display will be terracotta floor tiles which still retain the footprints of dogs, weasels, birds and children from when they were left out to dry, a huge Roman grain storage jar which will be on display for the first time since undergoing major restoration, exquisite examples of carved gemstones and a Roman roof tile with a Nero stamp on it.

Alongside will be a behind-the-scenes look at an archaeological dig that, 50 years on, is still revealing the secrets of the people of Silchester.

Silchester was a wealthy capital with its own Iron Age mint, and evidence from the site shows that it traded not only with other tribes in Britain but also across Europe to the Roman world of the Mediterranean.

Alongside their trade skill, visitors will discover how adept they were at metal work, with chariot fittings and a smithy uncovered during the dig.

Other discoveries give a more emotive insight into Iron Age life: these include the skeleton of what is thought to be the first lap dog in Britain, imported from across the Channel.

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With the Romans came inevitable change. At the exhibition, visitors will learn how the Iron Age settlement with its signature round houses transitioned with the introduction of a Roman street grid and buildings such as a forum and a bath house.

How a Roman bath house worked, with its complex underfloor system of heat and gas, will be explored at the exhibition, and on display will be hair pins and jewellery, personal items lost or left behind by bath house users.

Nick Suffolk, head of heritage experience at Hampshire Cultural Trust, said: “Becoming Roman – Silchester, a Town of Change contains so many objects that give us a frozen moment in time; from a footprint on a drying floor tile to hairpins lost in the Roman baths and coins dropped in the forum."