EXPERTS from Southampton have made a major discovery at the underwater site of a former Roman settlement.

A team led by a University of Southampton archaeologist have found the previously undiscovered remains of a fortress and port off the coast of Albania, making it a far more significant site than originally thought.

The team of academics were researching the archaeological site of Triport, near the modern port of Vlorë in Albania, and divers found an additional eight acres of submerged structures, adding to the known remains of approximately 12 acres.

The find suggests Triport was a harbour for a large settlement during the Roman period, and may have been associated with the ancient city of Aulon, now known as Vlorë.

The expedition of 14 researchers was lead by the University of Southampton’s Peter Campbell as well as Neritan Ceka of the Albanian Institute of Archaeology and the Albanian National Coastal Agency.

Mr Campbell said: “We found indicators of ancient sea level change, Greek and Roman trade (4BC to 7AD), and contemporary environmental data.

“But one of the most significant discoveries was the larger submerged remains – prompting us to rethink the importance of Triport as a Roman harbour.

“Albania has some of the most important waters in the Mediterranean.

"This coastline was vital for ancient trade and it continues to be significant as the convergence zone for species from the Adriatic and Ionian seas.”

Triport offered ships safe anchorage and was connected to ancient cities through major Roman roads. The site was first explored in the 20th century, with further study in the early 2000s.

Albanian seas have some of the best underwater cultural heritage in the Mediterranean, which was an inadvertent consequence of restrictions on SCUBA diving and coastal development during the country’s period of communist rule.

The expedition also looked at the impacts on the site and the area from coastal development and pollution.

The project discovered anchors made of stone, lead, and iron as well as amphoras, large jug like containers, dating from about 300BC to the Middle Ages.

Other ancient artifacts found include roof tiles for houses, plates, and water jugs, which have all been left undisturbed where they were for the future.