Tesco and Arc have different plans for the Vaux site
Historians and archaeologists from the north-east of England hope that a dig at the site of a former brewery in Sunderland will reveal if there was once a Roman settlement in the city.
Residents in Sunderland are aware of stories of a Roman outpost that used to stand high above the River Wear, perhaps on the site of the old Vaux Brewery.
The story has been handed down for generations, and now the Tyne and Wear Archaeologist David Heslop, has said that before any development is carried out the site there must be a dig.
The brewery closed in 1999 and is at the centre of a development tussle between the city's regeneration company, Sunderland Arc, and Tesco, who both have separate plans for the site.
But now Mr Heslop has said there must be exploratory digs before any development gets under way.
Steve Speke, senior keeper of field archaeology for Tyne and Wear Museums, said: "We would want to dig a series of trenches across the site to see if there was a Roman fort or not.
"It would be most important to see if there is evidence of a fort on the old Vaux site.
"The only way we can do that is by investigating with a series of digs."
Stuart Miller, a Sunderland historian and university lecturer, added: "There is a long-established local legend that there was a Roman fort on the site.
"It is very important that we explore this possibility. There are one or two gaps in Sunderland's history and this is one of them."