Builders working on a new housing development have discovered a huge Roman fort – which could rewrite the history of a British city.
The workmen have uncovered the remains of a military base which would have been used by soldiers used to keep native civilians under control.
Part of the distinctive defensive ditches the Roman military put around their forts have been found as well as pottery dating from 1AD.
It has been found by contractors who were excavating three acres of land at a former college to build 250 new homes in Exeter, Devon.
Archaeologists say the find is ”extremely significant” because it pre-dates when Romans were thought to have arrived in the area.
Tim Gent head of Exeter Archaeology, said: ”Early work has already identified the remains of timber buildings within the fort that would have housed the conquering army not long after their arrival in the vicinity.
”This new fort could have been used by the Roman army in dealing with locals who were still up in arms and not particularly pleased to see them.
”This ongoing excavation has the potential to rewrite some of the existing ideas about what exactly happened at this very early period in our history.”
Valerie Maxwell, a retired professor of Roman archaeology at the University of Exeter added: ”What we are learning is that they were incredibly mobile.
”This is not a fort as such but a campaign base which was relatively quickly constructed and dismantled and abandoned as the army moved on.
”The tribal forces of the time were formidable, but could not match the efficiency of the Romans.”
The Roman army reached Exeter around AD 50-55 during the conquest of south-west Britain on the orders of Emperor Claudius, commanded by a future Emperor, Vespasian.
It is likely that the newly discovered fort, rectangular and of wooden construction, was used as a base to quell uprisings by local chieftains.