Remains dating back to the third century have been unearthed by builders working at the Caerleon campus of Gwent College of Higher Education. Caerleon, the Roman town of Isca, was home to 10,000 soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion.
The discovery was unexpected because before building a new student village last year and subsequently starting this year's Pounds 2 million extension to the art and design faculty building, a full archaeological survey had been carried out. The college had been assured there was nothing of importance beneath the building sites.
But earlier this month an excavator hit what was thought to be an obtrusive kerbstone. Investigation revealed that it was in fact a stone Roman coffin containing the skull of a woman.
Building work stopped and the college informed the police, the coroner and the National Museum of Wales, which has a Roman Legionary Museum at Caerleon.
Then staff and students from the college's history and archaeology department went out to dig. One afternoon they found more bones and pottery including 20 saucer-sized black bowls.
The college is well placed to analyse the findings as it is one of the few institutions in the United Kingdom to offer a part-time postgraduate degree course for practising archaeologists in Celtic and Roman archaeology. The students are used to excavating Roman sites throughout the UK. It has long been suspected that there was a Roman cemetery somewhere in Caerleon.