THE YORK Archaeological Trust has announced plans to set up a city centre outdoor canopy to enable digging to continue through the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last year, York Archaeological Trust announced plans for a 'once in a generation' dig on the site of the proposed Roman attraction - similar to the one it staged in Coppergate in the 1970s before it created the ground-breaking Jorvik Viking Centre.

But, the company said in the post-COVID world, the short term plans could be just as helpful to the wider city - and they plan to set up a canopy as part of a two-year dig. 

Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust said: "We have no idea what the next 12 months will bring for tourism in York – whether that is a gradual relaxing of social distancing rules and increased capacity for indoor spaces, or a tightening of restrictions if there are signs of a second wave of infection – but we do know that some of York’s indoor attractions are struggling to operate with low capacities and social distancing rules, including our two attractions within the city.

  “An outdoor city centre attraction focused on heritage and history would be a perfect addition to York’s visitor economy, and that’s what we’re looking to provide with public access to the dig site over the two years that we are excavating.”

Under the Trust’s plans, a canopy will cover the entire site to enable digging to continue in all weathers over the two years, which will make it accessible to visitors as well as local people. 

Mrs Maltby added: “A big part of the Trust’s remit is to support education, so we’ve made an ambitious target of every school child in York visiting the site during the dig. 

"Just as children peered through the hoardings of the Coppergate when they visited the city centre with their parents in the late 1970s, we want today’s children to engage with this exploration of York’s history with physical visits and online activities that they will tell their children about a generation down the line.”

Throughout the two-year excavation, archaeologists expect to find traces of many different eras in York’s history, from Victorians to Vikings, Anglo-Saxons to Roman settlers, as evidence unearthed at neighbouring sites suggests that the area sits adjacent to the main bridge into the military base that gradually expanded to become the Roman city of Eboracum. 

A spokesperson added: “This is a site incredibly rich with archaeology, so we are very excited about what we may unearth – potentially, this could give us the same kind of insights into life in Roman York as the Coppergate dig gave us into Viking life.

“If permission is granted for the entire building project in the autumn, we will be able to start marketing the Dig for Eboracum as a tourist attraction for summer 2021. 

“We are confident that we can deliver a fantastic new experience – and that could be just what York needs to encourage more visitors back.  With a new cutting-edge Roman indoor visitor attraction set to follow a couple of years later, we hope that this will stimulate the sector for many years to come.”