IT'S a find that most archaeologists can only dream of...

For more than six years, Carlisle Cricket Club's Edenside ground has been yielding fascinating and long-lost secrets as archaeologists and volunteers continue the painstaking work of uncovering the site's Roman past.

Yet, just two days into a new dig at the site, where a huge Roman bathhouse with imperial connections was discovered, volunteers have made a stunning discovery - two fantastically preserved two feet high effigies of heads.

They were found abandoned at the edge of what was once a cobbled Roman road.

News and Star: One of the statues in the ground where it was foundOne of the statues in the ground where it was found (Image: Isaac Cooper)Given the high number of imperial artefacts previously found at the site - including tiles with the royal IMP imprint - there is already speculation that the figures may be depictions of a royal couple who may have visited the city.

Frank Giecco, from the archaeology firm Wardell Armstrong, was on site when the heads were uncovered by volunteers Carolyn Veit and Ruth Pearce.

Recalling his first glimpse of the heads, Frank said: "It sent tingles down my spine. As an archaeologist, this is what you live to find. We’ve been very lucky; and just to see the pure joy of everybody involved was wonderful.

"They probably date from the early third century. These heads would take pride of place in any museum.”

News and Star: Volunteers onsite helping to unearth the statuesVolunteers onsite helping to unearth the statues (Image: Cumberland Council)Ironically, luck played a part in the discovery, said Frank, who believes the female head may represent Fortuna, the Roman goddess of good fortune. 

He explained: “As I was laying out the dig site, I moved the boundary about 50 centimetres to the south. I was putting a stake in the ground but hit a stone, so I moved the line.

"If I hadn’t done that, we’d never have found them.

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Frank's fellow archaeologist Jo Beaty speculated that the heads may be effigies of the third century Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and his queen Julia Domna.

If Jo is right, the discovery adds weight to the possibility that the two rulers may once have stayed at the Carlisle site.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime find," she said.

The heads add to the ever-expanding list of impressive artefacts found on the site. Previous digs have discovered carved gemstones described by a leading expert as being up there with the great artworks of the empire.

The site continues to be active and is open to the public between Monday and Saturday. Tours of the site are held at 11.30am and 3pm on each of these days and there are limited spaces left for volunteers to get involved.