DIGGING up the past could have a bright future in York.

The group behind the city's famous Jorvik attraction has won a £750,000 grant from the Millennium Commission to help create a new experience where visitors can part in a simulated archaeological excavation.

Dig! will take the place of the Archaeological Resource Centre in St Saviour's Church, which will close in July.

The York Archaeological Trust says visitors will be able to dig up genuine artefacts from the simulated remains of a Roman fortress, a Viking city, a medieval burial site, and Victorian cottages.

City MP Hugh Bayley and Millennium Commissioner Judith Donovan are to visit the site on Monday.

Budding archaeologists will be able to "excavate" a medieval burial site as well as parts of a Roman fortress, a Viking city and Victorian workers' cottages.

York Archaeological Trust (YAT), the educational charity behind Jorvik, has won a £750,000 grant from the Millennium Commission to drive forward its latest vision.

Dig! is expected to offer a rare insight into the science behind studying the past, and become an important learning centre when it opens in March 2006.

It will take the place of the Archaeological Resource Centre (ARC) at St Saviour's Church in York, which closes in July.

St Saviour's will be transformed into a simulated archaeological investigation, including an excavation, site hut, laboratory and research library.

Emma Hunt, of the trust, said: "People will work on an excavation, which will look like a dig with a Roman fortress and simulated soil. At ARC you are presented with the artefacts.

"This is a much more realistic starting line."

She said the aim was to create a "more hi-tech experience, using more modern tools" and educate people about science.

But, unlike a real dig when archaeologists can toil for hours with little in return, the Dig! pit will be full of genuine artefacts, discovered by YAT in York over the past 25 years.

Visitors who will be able to excavate different sites will then be challenged to discover as much as possible about life in the past from their finds.

John Walker, trust chief executive, said: "As an educational charity, we are delighted to offer visitors the chance to use archaeological techniques and equipment not otherwise available to the public.

"This new venture will also show how important science and history are in our everyday lives."

Dig! will also celebrate local heritage, ending with a 3D reveal area which will talk through the history of York and how life would have been through the different time periods studied.

It is one of a number of projects from YAT, this year including a training dig at St Mary's in York, ongoing major excavations in the city, a range of events from Jorvik, including the Viking Festival, and new publications exploring archaeology and the history of York.

Updated: 09:40 Saturday, May 07, 2005