A third century bathhouse found in north Carlisle may have been built to honour a visiting Roman Emperor, say experts.

Archaeologists who have spent months assessing the Carlisle Cricket Club finds - described as "Premier League" in their quality - say the scale of the newly discovered buildings and other clues strongly suggest that it was created for an imperial visit.

The city - Roman name Luguvalium - may have been visited by Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and his wife Julia Domna.

An inscription stone paying tribute to an Empress was among the artefacts found.

The Cumberland News has been given exclusive access to the first detailed assessment of the Cricket Club dig, overseen by the Wardell Armstrong archaeology contractor.

Among the surprises is confirmation that human remains were found - bones from four individuals, including a skull fragment, bearing an injury suggesting the person was "scalped", though the remains post-date the Roman era.

The discovery of the bathhouse caused huge excitement when it was revealed by The Cumberland News.

Though the site holds many more secrets, the work so far has uncovered eight bathhouse rooms, five equipped with the Roman equivalent of under-floor heating. The buildings was probably part of a larger administrative complex, says the report.

"The building was constructed on a truly monumental scale, measuring 40m by 35m, and would have been one of the largest in Roman Carlisle," says the report.

"It is now clear that this building was set in a much larger complex which undoubtedly contained as yet undiscovered structures and access by a substantial road..."

Commenting on the imperial artefacts found, the report says: "The size of the building surpasses any other bathhouse in the northern frontier zone as does the scale and quality of interior painted walls.

"The building dedication the the Empress Julia Domna is very significant, particularly when linked to the numerous imperial stamped ceramic tiles recovered on the site... suggesting an early third century date.

"This was a very important period in the in the growth of Roman Carlisle, when the city gained its civic status with a number of monumental buildings being constructed within the city.

"During this period, the imperial court was based in York and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the the imperial court may have passed through or indeed stayed in Carlisle.

"As such it is possible the building was originally constructed for such a visit, and therefore linked with the granting of civitas status."

That suggestion is bound to fuel demands for Carlisle to create a permanent exhibition to show off the finds, boosting the city's tourism trade and celebrating its unique Roman heritage.

"It's hugely exciting for the city," said Carlisle City Council Leader Colin Glover.

* Further in-depth coverage of the experts' finds can be found here