A huge bundle of Roman jewellery thought to have been stashed away from warrior Queen Boudicca and her army nearly 2,000 years ago has been unearthed in Essex.

Archaeologists who discovered the hoard in Colchester’s high street have hailed the discovery “one of the finest collections of Roman jewellery ever uncovered in Britain”.

"We had almost finished our six-month study of the site when we came upon a small tangled ball of metal that turned out to be jewellery that had lain there undisturbed since 61AD,” said Colchester Archaeological Trust director Philip Crummy.

"It is a particularly poignant find because of its historical context. Boudicca and her army destroyed London and St Albans but many of the inhabitants had time to escape; however, the people of Colchester were not so fortunate.

Roman jewellery found under high street in Essex

"They knew a large Roman army was coming to their aid but they were practically defenceless, with only a small force of soldiers and no town defences.

"Imagine their panic and desperation when they learnt of the massacre of a large part of the Ninth Legion on its way to relieve them and, after a two-day siege, they were over-run. They would have tried desperately to bury and hide valuables like jewellery for safe-keeping.

"We know that the 'noblest' of Colchester's Roman women were taken to sacred groves, where they were killed in a horrific way. The quality of the jewellery we have found suggests that the owner would have been in this category but there is no direct evidence to indicate she ended up in a sacred grove."

The remarkable hoard includes an ancient ‘clutch bag’, gold armlets, earrings and rings as well as silver chains, rings and coins.

The Boudiccan sacking and burning of Colchester left a distinctive red and black layer of debris up to half a metre thick across the centre of much of modern-day Colchester. 

This layer is still being examined by archaeologists on the site, which is part of the Williams & Griffin department store and is made up of remains of the standing burnt clay walls smothered by a mass of broken and collapsed fragments from the upper parts of the walls. 

Human remains as well as food have also been discovered at the site.