Workmen have discovered a suspected 2,000-year-old Roman road in a Worcestershire field.
The old artery may be the only one of its kind in Britain and “of global importance”, according to experts.
Archaeologists say the cobbled ford discovered near the town of Evesham could be the finest Roman example of this type in the country.
The 10m (32ft) stretch, which is 2.9m (0.9ft) wide, was uncovered during routine aqueduct work by Severn Trent a few weeks ago.
It is said to have been built like a wall with large stones laid in strips – a traditional Roman technique – with its only comparisons to Rome and Pompeii.
The the exact location of the find is concealed but it was found near a river where a Roman-era villa complex had been discovered four years ago.
Excavations are underway to find out more about the site, but experts say everything points to a genuine Roman structure – built 1,900 years ago. Owners of the property have contacted Wychavon District Council and a team from Historic England are now expected to analyze the excavations.
Wychavon District Council Archeology Officer Aidan Smyth said the find “took his breath away”.
If confirmed to be from the first century AD, it would be “more than rare” and the only such road in Britain.
The ford, which crosses a stream, also has ruts in the stones indicating that it was long used by carts.
Mr Smyth said: “At the moment everything ticks the boxes for it to be Roman, but it still seems too good to be true, so we’re keeping an open mind.”
“If it turns out to be medieval it could still be considered nationally significant, as nothing similar has been found in Britain to date. While this is a first century Roman item it is the only one of its kind to be found in Britain to date, there isn’t really anything like this medieval either.
“If it were to be a Roman feature, with its only comparisons to Rome and Pompeii, you could say it is of global significance, not just national significance.
“The masonry is absolutely perfect. It ticks all the boxes for being Roman.
Wychavon District Council has so far confirmed that no datable finds such as pottery or coins have been discovered, which is generally used to help date the site.
Instead, a dug-out section of the road is to be sent for optically stimulated luminescence tests which will measure the last time the sediment was exposed to sunlight.
This process could take several months and in the meantime the site could be reburied to protect it from deterioration.
Historic England is kept informed in the hope that it will classify it as an ancient monument, thus protecting it from future development.
Evesham is a market town and parish in the district of Wychavon in Worcestershire, in the West Midlands region of England.
Worcestershire is fertile ground for important archaeological finds as Worcester was possibly the site of the Roman town of Vertis.
The Roman army passed through the area now known as Worcestershire in the 40s and 50s AD as they pushed west to reach the River Severn en route to Wales.