North East experts are to investigate reports that a mosaic from Roman times is buried 15ft underground opposite the site of a former Sunderland brewery.
Archaeologists are now hoping to search for the ancient relic on the Vaux brewery site before it is redeveloped.
If they find the mosaic, it would confirm long-held suspicions by some local historians that there used to be a Roman settlement in the city.
The brewery closed in 1999 and will not be redeveloped until digs are complete.
Generations of people from Sunderland have grown up hearing stories of a Roman outpost that used to stand high above the River Wear.
David Heslop, is the county archaeologist for Tyne and Wear, and said a thorough dig at the site would have to be carried out.
"I am convinced of reports that there was a Roman settlement in the city as coins have been found all over Sunderland.
"But we do need direct evidence which would mean extensive excavation work.
"Across the road on the Vaux brewery site seven trenches have been dug and evidence of even older settlements have been found such as the Stone Age."