ONE of the most significant archaeological digs ever to take place in Caerleon is expected to shed new light on what happened in the area during and immediately after the Roman occupation.

A team of 50 archaeologists from Cardiff University and University College London yesterday finished a six-week dig at the CADW-owned Priory Field.

During that time, they uncovered a set of Roman body armour - one of only four such discoveries ever in Britain.

They also found around 60 Roman coins and thousands of metal objects such as brooches, belt buckles and buttons, some shaped as fish, lions, stars, flowers and the Roman god Minerva.

The dig centred on what is thought to have been a 50 metre by 50 metre storage area.

But, the dig’s co-director Peter Guest said this is a small part of a Roman settlement 1,000 times bigger, meaning there is scope for more similar digs to take place in the future.

Mr Guest said: “It is the end of the dig, but in a sense, the start of our work. We need to look at the artefacts and soil samples and piece together the people who lived here.”

Bones and samples suggest the Romans brought a liking for pork and oysters to the area.

Other discoveries include pottery, cooking and eating artefacts, a sculpted figure and scale armour that would have been used for parades.

Finds supervisor Chris Waite said: “The finds from this dig would be enough to fill a whole new wing at the museum in Caerleon.”

Around 100 tonnes of soil were taken out of the ground during the dig. The site will now be filled back in over the weekend, with the artefacts examined at Cardiff University.

Around 4,000 visitors visited the site.

Co-director Andy Gardner said: “Most significantly, people thought Caerleon was abandoned in the 300s (in the third century AD) when the Romans left. But, we found evidence it was still occupied. We need to look at who these people were and what they did.”