THE DISCOVERY of a Roman port in Caerleon was hailed by academics.

Senior lecturer in Roman Archaeology, Dr Peter Guest, who led the excavation team which found the remains of the harbour: "What we have found exceeds all expectations. We are excavating the remains of a previously unknown complex of important Roman buildings that survive remarkably well considering how long they have lain underground.

"The port or harbour is a major addition to the archaeology of Roman Britain and adds a new dimension to our understanding of Caerleon as we can start to think about how the river connected the fortress and Wales to the rest of the Roman Empire."

A team of volunteers and academics from Cardiff University have been working over the past five weeks on a suburb of monumental buildings outside the Roman fortress, which was uncovered last year. It was while exploring this suburb that the remains of the harbour were found.

"We believe that the port dates to period when the Legions were fighting and subduing the native tribes in western Britain and it's incredible to think that this is the place where the men who took part in the conquest would have arrived."

Around 40 people from the university are working on the dig, with up to 20 volunteers each day. The team has also found rooms with under floor heating systems, collapsed walls and roofs, thousands of objects made and used during the Roman period, along with the remains of administrative buildings and temples.

Channel Four's Time Team will be visiting the site from today until Friday and the site will be open to the public with tours every day except Wednesday at 11am and 2.30pm.

Visitors are also welcome during Bank Holiday weekend 27-29th August between 10am and 4:30pm, during which time several family activities will be taking place alongside displays of the team’s latest discoveries.

Discoveries of 'international importance'

Known as Isca, the fortress at Caerleon was constructed in AD 74/5 during the final conquest by the Roman army of the fierce Celtic tribes in South Wales. It was the headquarters of the Second Augustan Legion, one of four legions who invaded Britain during the reign of the Emperor Claudius.

Students detected the remains of walls below the ground in fields outside the fortress outlining a series of huge buildings between the amphitheatre and the River Usk in August during the annual dig last year.

Experts had believed the area was largely unoccupied during the Roman era and the discovery was described as being of international importance.

During last year's six-week dig various items were uncovered, including a set of Roman body armour - one of only four such discoveries ever in Britain - around 60 Roman coins and thousands of metal objects such as brooches, belt buckles and buttons.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Remains find is huge boost

THE discovery of remains which show how Caerleon may have looked 2,000 years ago is simply mind-blowing.

The stunning artist’s impressions of how the village may have looked with its Roman port give a fantastic view of how life may have been.

For the last five weeks, a team of volunteers and academics from Cardiff University has been working on a suburb of buildings outside the Roman fortress.

It was originally uncovered last year but only now has its enormity been realised, with evidence of a Roman port on the banks of the River Usk.

The port is only the second known from Roman Britain.

The remains are said to include the main quay wall and landing stages and wharves where ships would have docked and unloaded cargo.

The dig team has also found rooms with under-floor heating systems, collapsed walls and roofs, as well as thousands of objects made and used during the Roman period.

These new findings only add to Caerleon’s reputation as a site of major historic importance.

It should also help bring in even more tourists to the area, which can only be good for the local economy.