Archaeologists believe they may have found the final battle site for the warrior queen Boadicea - on the site of a McDonald's restaurant.
Having spent her life in fierce resistance to one empire - the Romans - her last stand is thought to have been overshadowed by another one, this time corporate.
Having found ancient artefacts where new houses and flats are due to be built, experts have now asked the local authority to allow a full excavation of the area.
Little is known about Boadicea's last fight, or the way in which she died, but it is widely believed to have taken place in the West Midlands. The site unearthed by experts, in Kings Norton, Birmingham, lies close to the line of a Roman road, and fits many of the few facts available.
The Queen of the Iceni tribe, the ancient native Britons, had a final showdown with Governor General Suetonius Paulinus in 61 AD. Her 200,000 soldiers were annihilated by just 10,000 legionaries, ending the British rebellion.
One of the most popular theories is that afterwards Boadicea killed herself by drinking from a poisoned chalice.
According to the Roman historian Tacitus, prior to battle Paulinus deliberately protected his legions by choosing a hilly area virtually surrounded by trees with a single opening.
Experts from Birmingham city council believe the Parsons Hill site matches this description with its landscape and mature woodland, and artefacts found in the dig indicate that Roman soldiers may have been there. The area of land next to the McDonald's is also near the Metchley Roman fort.
Cllr Peter Douglas Osborn, a conservationist, said: "I find it very exciting to think we may unearth something so intriguing right here in Birmingham. It would be bizarre if it is discovered Boadicea's last stand was next door to a McDonald's, but the site does fit the only descriptions we know of.
"It is on the route to Metchley, the Roman fort discovered in Birmingham and, if only because of this, it represents a real possibility.
"It is even more encouraging when you consider the evidence and well-preserved remains unearthed from trial trenches. The location itself matches previous historical descriptions of the battle site in that it is a hilly area surrounded by trees. It would be priceless if we found that this historic battle was fought outside a McDonald's fast food joint. I also hope the dig may unearth some evidence of what name the Romans gave Birmingham."
Dr Mike Hodder, Birmingham city council's senior archaeologist, added: "There's no doubt it's an important archaeological site. Whether it has anything to do with Boadicea is nearly impossible to prove, but there are certainly Roman remains found there."
A spokesman for McDonald's said: "Obviously if a site next to one of our restaurants is found to be where Boudica fought her last battle then we would be quite excited. However, we'll have to wait and see what the archaeologists find."
Boadicea was married to King Prasutagus, who ruled over the Iceni - the tribe occupying East Anglia - but under Roman authority. Despite the king, in a flawed attempt to curry favour with the Romans, making Emperor Nero a co-heir to his estates, Nero provoked Boadicea by forcing her people to endure conscription and pay heavy taxes.
The final outrage came when Prasutagus died in AD60 and the Romans annexed her dominions, flogging her in public and murdering and raping her family.
Boadicea vowed to take on Nero and his legions and other tribes from all over south-east Britain joined her. After the Roman towns of London, St Albans and Colchester were burned to the ground, troops were called down from Lincoln as Boadicea's warriors headed north and the armies clashed in the Midlands.
Good stuff in a sidebar too:
• The name Boadicea is derived from the name given to her in classical sources, Boudica.
• The warrior queen was described as being "very tall, the glance of her eye most fierce; her voice harsh. A great mass of the reddest hair fell down to her hips. Her appearance was terrifying".
• Her death remains the subject of discussion. She is said to have either committed suicide by drinking poison (according to Tacitus), or to have fallen mortally ill (the version in Cassius Dio).
• She has been the subject of two feature films, made in 1928 and 2003. A Mel Gibson film charting her life, called Warrior, is currently in production.
• Despite her fame at the time, Boadicea was largely forgotten until the 15th century, when the works of the historians Tacitus and Cassius Dio were rediscovered. Since then she has been lauded as a warrior and female icon.
• Sightings of the ghost of Boadicea, riding on her chariot, have often been reported in Lincolnshire.
Posted by david meadows on May-25-06 at 4:49 AM
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