ARCHAEOLOGISTS have started work delving below the ground in central Winchester.

The city council commissioned the work to help inform future development of the site, known as the Central Winchester Regeneration or Silver Hill.

But anyone expecting a repeat of the dig at the Brooks Centre in the late 1980s which lasted for around two years will be disappointed.

This time 14 geo-archaeological boreholes drilled in carefully selected locations across the site, from the bus station, around Kings Walk and to The Brooks. Water monitoring from the boreholes will take place over the next 12 months.

Samples will reveal the sequence of deposits in the ground to help determine the history of the site and how it has developed. The water levels and the biological remains of things like seeds, pollen grains and insects preserved in the ground can help explain the history of the city and the nature of archaeological preservation.

Cllr Kelsie Learney, cabinet member for housing and asset management, said: “As we look to progress proposals to improve the Central Winchester Regeneration area for the benefit of this generation and generations to come, it is crucial we understand the historic significance of the site.

"We have worked with specialists, interested parties and local organisations to understand the very best way to investigate what remains beneath the site. We are delighted to be working with such a highly respected team to help us in achieving this.”

The work is being done by a team from the University of Winchester (ARCA) and PCA, a commercial archaeological contractor based in Winchester. ARCA are a specialist geoarchaeology team at the university.

Paul McCulloch, from PCA, said: "We are pleased to be working with the team in this innovative and exciting geo-archaeological investigation and are looking forward to the results they obtain from the boreholes.”

Prof Keith Wilkinson from ARCA added: “The test pits and boreholes represent an important opportunity to investigate the thickness and distribution of archaeological layers, and the artefacts they contain.”