New archaeological evidence suggests that settlers could have inhabited eastern England before travelling on to Italy to found Rome. A dig near the village of Iocum in modern day Essex has unearthed Roman style vases, bowls and even a rudimentary underground water heating system that archaeologists believe date back to around the ninth century BC, before the founding of Rome.

The eastern part of England is no stranger to surprising archaeological finds with Sutton Hoo being discovered in neighbouring Suffolk in the 1930s. However, the current find would challenge many preconceptions. East Anglia was a region noted for its trade routes, and it is now believed that a group of travellers might have settled in Essex before moving on to central Italy.

“For too long Essex culture has been associated with white stilettoes and Botox,” says local councillor Ivor Fabricant. “This find proves that there was a sophisticated culture in Essex well before TOWIE.”

The council hopes that the Iocum find will act as a welcome fillip for the local tourism industry much as Sutton Hoo did for Suffolk.

Prior to this find it was believed that the first Roman settlement in England was at Stultus Aprilis in Kent. The artefacts found at Iocum have now been sent to the British Museum for verification.