The rare remains were discovered in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, according to a statement from Historic England, a public body that looks after the country’s historic environment, published Thursday.
Archeologists were drafted in to work on the project because Iron Age and Roman remains had been found at the site, but the findings “were far more significant than anticipated,” said Historic England.
They include a circular central room with various rooms built off it, as well as a bath house. Archeologists believe the large complex of buildings could have been a luxury villa, a religious sanctuary or a mixture of both.
The remains will be preserved in an open public space on the new housing development.
MAP Archaeological Practice
“These archaeological remains are a fantastic find and are far more than we ever dreamed of discovering at this site,” said Keith Emerick, inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England. “They are already giving us a better knowledge and understanding of Roman Britain.”
This kind of layout has not been discovered before in the UK, and Historic England said it may be the first time the remains of such a complex has been seen in the whole Roman Empire, which covered vast swathes of the island of Great Britain from 43-410 AD.
“This is a remarkable discovery which adds to the story of Roman settlement in North Yorkshire,” said Karl Battersby, corporate director, business and environmental Services, North Yorkshire County Council, in the statement.
“Work by North Yorkshire archaeologists has already established the buildings were designed by the highest quality architects in Northern Europe in the era and constructed by the finest craftsmen.”
Housing developer Keepmoat Homes has redesigned the development so that the remains will sit in a public open space rather than be built over.
Historic England will support further archeological work at the site, and recommends the remains be named a Scheduled Monument, which will grant them protection.