RARE evidence of one of the leading figures of the Roman Empire has been unearthed by a team of archaeologists.

Researchers from the University of Reading discovered three priceless artefacts bearing the stamp of Roman Emperor Nero at the Roman Tile site at Englefield Estate.

The rare find dates back some 2,000 years and is part of a public dig, which has been open since August and attracted more than 500 visitors for tours and interaction with the treasures.

The Nero tiles have been found during the excavation of a series of Roman kiln structures, including huge brick and tile production facilities.

Professor Mike Fulford, project director, said: “The kilns are remarkably well-preserved, with their firing chambers, stokeholes and flues intact.

“One edge of the kiln area is defined by a 1.5m deep, V-shaped ditch. The profile, the scale of activity and the early start to such a large-scale operation all hint at the Roman military being involved.

“But, of particular significance, are the extremely rare finds of the stamped tiles bearing the name Nero.

“There has been a steady flow of visitors to the site and we are pleased to be able to discuss our work with the local community.

“The team are grateful for everyone’s interest in the work and in particular to Dr Peter Warry, the Englefield Estate and to the tenants, the Kolosowski family for access and their encouragement.”

Although there is no record of the Emperor visiting England, the tiles suggest a direct link to the nearby Roman town of Silchester and the Emperor’s desire to support construction during his short reign.

Silchester is renowned for the archaeological site known as Calleva Atrebatum, which was first occupied by the Romans in 45AD.

All three tiles found bear a variation of Nero’s title and more than four tonnes of Roman ceramic building material has been recovered.

Edward Crookes, Englefield Estates director, added: “This is a fascinating project and the team’s efforts have been particularly fruitful with the uncovering of such rare artefacts pointing to the close connection between the area and one of the Roman Empire’s best-known emperors.”