Evidence of one of the Roman Empire’s best-known rulers has been discovered near Basingstoke.
A team of archaeologists from the University of Reading has found three tiles bearing the stamp of Emperor Nero at a site in Little London.
The tiles date back almost 2,000 years, and were found earlier this month at the Roman Tile Kiln site.
Only 14 such tiles have ever been found in the UK, including another found at Little London back in 1925 and four discovered within a ritual put at a temple in nearby Silchester.
The University of Reading team is currently excavating a series of Roman kiln structures at the Little London site, which includes some huge brick and tile production facilities.
Project director Professor Mike Fulford 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. Its 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.
“The team is confident this site has plenty more to reveal about the industry and Nero’s part in its establishment.”
Nero was emperor of the Roman Empire between 54 and 68 AD until his death age 30, and was known for his extravagance and tyranny as well as his love of culture.
There are no records of Nero having visited England, but the unearthed items reveal his desire to sponsor construction at Silchester.
The Little London site is owned by the Englefield Estate, and has been open to the public since the dig started in August.
Englefield Estate’s director Edward Crookes said: “This is a fascinating project and the team’s efforts have been particularly fruitful.
“The uncovering of such rare artefacts points to the close connection between the area and one of the Roman Empire’s best-known emperors.”