Updated: YORK’S hidden history will hold the key to the city’s bid to become a World Heritage Site.

City of York Council is today officially submitting its application for the city to be named on a list of UK nominations for the accolade, which, if it succeeds, would massively boost its profile and economy and rank it alongside the likes of the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.

Five potential sites are likely to be named on a UK Tentative List to be revealed next year, with one then being put forward every two years from 2012 to UNESCO, the organisation with the final say on inclusion.

Launching York’s bid at the Mansion House yesterday, Janet Hopton, who chairs the York World Heritage Steering Group, said the focus would be on the city’s “outstanding” archaeology, which has just seen the possible discovery of the world’s best-preserved gladiator cemetery.

“Archaeological discovery never ceases to amaze and surprise us in what it can tell us about our past in York,” she said.

“Gradually, over the years, more and more is being revealed of what lies beneath our city, an ever-unfolding story. In archaeological terms, we are sitting on a goldmine.”

York’s status as a centre for archaeological teaching, science and research is also being seen a major factor. City archaeologist John Oxley said: “World Heritage status would put York in the premier league of cities worldwide.

“We would be one of only 834 sites in the world, and it would place us in a different league in terms of how we promote York to the business and tourism community, with people wanting to live here, stay here longer and spend more money here.

“It would also recognise York as one of the best archaeological sites not only in the UK, but worldwide.”

John Yeomans, chairman of tourism body Visit York, said: “York will gain clear economic, social and tourism benefits from gaining World Heritage status.”

The application, submitted to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, will now be assessed by an expert panel and more information is available at york.gov.uk/worldheritage