YOU might think some of the town planning in north Hampshire belongs to the Iron Age. And you would be right.

Because Silchester is emerging as the site of the oldest known town in Britain, thanks to the efforts of archaeologists.

Experts and students have been digging down into the history of Calleva Atrebatum each summer for 13 years and are now uncovering evidence of Silchester being a large Iron Age town in the first century AD.

Project director Michael Fulford, professor of archaeology at Reading University, said: “That’s generating a lot of interest because we never had an idea that Iron Age communities were organised on such a scale.”

He added: “Calleva was a big town. It was a native centre, it became the centre of a small indigenous kingdom.”

Togidubnus, the Romans’ puppet king, would have reigned an area stretching from the Surrey and Kent border in the east to Wiltshire in the west and from the Thames river to the south coast, said Prof Fulford.

While this summer’s wet weather may not please everyone, it has been a boon for the archaeologists who find it easier to identify promising areas to dig when the ground is sodden.

Among the finds that have emerged this year are an iron spear or arrowhead, a tin covered bronze cruciform brooch dated between AD40 and AD60, and a piece marbled Samian pottery which would have been imported from Italy.

Finds manager Elise Fraser said: “The finds this year are interesting, not pretty. It tells us about the people rather than high status.”

The site opened to the public on Saturday, and the excavation attracted hundreds of interested people from Hampshire, Berkshire and further afield.

And students dressed up, experimental archaeologists put on a display and experts gave talks to help bring the history to life for them.

Prof Fulford thought it was excellent so many people were turning up.

“There’s enduring interest in our past and also in the laborious painstaking way in which we get hold of the information,” he said.