Archaeologists believe they may have uncovered the first evidence of Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain in 54BC.
The discovery of a defensive ditch and weapons have led them to identify Pegwell Bay in Thanet, Kent as where they believe the Romans landed.
The ditch, found in nearby Ebbsfleet, was part of a large fort, the University of Leicester team believes.
Its location was consistent with clues provided by Caesar’s own account of the invasion, the team said.
‘Similar defences in France’
Caesar’s 54BC invasion, which ultimately ended in retreat, came almost 100 years before Claudius’s conquest in AD43.
The five metre-wide ditch was discovered during an excavation ahead of a new road being built.
The university said its shape was very similar to Roman defences found in France.
It is thought it formed part of a large fort protecting Caesar’s ships on the nearby beach.
Pottery found at the site was consistent with the 54BC arrival date and the team also found iron weapons, including a Roman javelin.
Archaeologist Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick said descriptions from Caesar’s account of the invasion suggested it was the correct landing site.
He said: “The presence of cliffs, the existence of a large open bay, and the presence of higher ground nearby, are consistent with the 54BC landing having been in Pegwell Bay.”
Prof Colin Haselgrove, who led the investigation, said it was likely treaties set up in the wake of Caesar’s invasion made it easier for the Romans to conquer parts of Britain almost 100 years later.
He said: “The conquest of south-east England seems to have been rapid, probably because the kings in the region were already allied to Rome.
“This was the beginning of the permanent Roman occupation of Britain, which included Wales and some of Scotland and lasted for almost 400 years.”
The findings will be explored further as part of Digging For Britain, on BBC Four at 21:00 and afterwards on BBC iPlayer.