A site which may house Britain's earliest known hospital has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Radio carbon analysis at the former Leper Hospital at St Mary Magdalen in Winchester has provided a date range of AD 960-1030 for a series of burials, many showing evidence of leprosy, on the site.

A number of other artefacts, pits, and postholes also relate to the same time, including what appears to be a large sunken structure underneath a medieval infirmary. Previously, most historians and archaeologists thought hospitals in Britain dated from after the Norman conquest of 1066.

"This is an important archaeological development," said Dr Simon Roffey from the University of Winchester, which conducted the dig. "It has always been assumed hospitals were a post-conquest phenomena... However, our excavations have revealed convincing evidence for a foundation in the 10th century."