ARCHAEOLOGISTS working on the Northgate Development site in Chester city centre have discovered a number of Roman artefacts – one of which is thought to be a rare board gaming piece made from bone.

Other historic finds so far include another bone artefact – possibly a comb – as well as a potential spearhead, and a pin or broach.

They will now be added to the city's Grosvenor Museum.

With the £70m Northgate scheme now underway, contractor VINCI Construction UK and archaeologists Oxford Archaeology have been carefully excavating to find signs of Roman life and other historical artefacts.

The lozenge-shaped gaming piece is highly polished – probably from use – and is approximately 29mm long, featuring a common Roman decoration of a ring and dot motif.

Experts link this to the game of Ludus Latrunculorum, meaning the Game of Mercenaries, which was a two-player military strategy board game played throughout the Roman Empire, similar to draughts.

Finding it in part of a legionary barracks in Chester would back up this theory.

Chester and District Standard:

This artefact is thought to be a rare Roman board gaming piece.

Councillor Richard Beacham, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and growth, said: "Chester is truly alive with history, and it is pleasing to see such interesting artefacts unearthed as we begin the long-awaited construction at Northgate.

"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."

Andrew Davison, Historic England’s inspector of ancient monuments for the North West, recently visited the Northgate site to inspect the work to date.

He said: "Chester residents are unusually knowledgeable about the city’s heritage, including its archaeology, so these finds will excite great interest.

"They speak volumes about the quality of the archaeology we are dealing with at this very significant site and I look forward to seeing more finds from the site as work continues."

Chester and District Standard:

Other artefacts found include a possible comb, spearhead and pin/broach.

Despite all of the activity on site at present, the construction will not result in any major intrusion into the important archaeological remains which remain undisturbed as the works proceed.

The new buildings have been carefully designed to avoid disturbance of archaeological remains as far as possible, and a comprehensive mitigation strategy overseen by Historic England is in place to ensure intrusions into the most sensitive strata are kept to an absolute minimum.

Part of Chester's One City Plan, Chester Northgate is scheduled to open in early 2022.

It will include an arched arcade from the former library frontage into a new public square, an indoor market hall - relocated from the Forum, a six-screen cinema, cafes and restaurants, co-working office spaces and a multi-storey car park to replace the Market car park, which will close once Northgate is completed.