An archaeological dig in a Cheshire hamlet has emerged as one of Britain's most important excavations ever.
Archaeologists working in Poulton, south of Chester, have discovered evidence of human activity dating back 9,000 years.
They have unearthed five Bronze Age burial mounds, two Roman buildings and a medieval chapel and cemetery.
The series of remarkable discoveries was made during excavations to find the lost Abbey of Poulton which once stood on the site.
Archaeologist Mike Emery has run the dig, on farmland bordering the Duke of Westminster's Eaton estate, for the past eight years.
Each summer, he and a team of volunteers work on the field and first unearthed evidence of medieval occupation, then Roman, and in the past year a prehistoric community.
Mr Emery, who works alongside a team of 20 students from Liverpool and Nottingham Universities, said: "Because of weather conditions, we have probably only spent about 11 months in total actually on the dig. But the discoveries we have made in that short time are remarkable.
"Everybody knows that Chester was an important part of the Roman empire, but now we know there were thriving communities here many thousands of years before the city was settled."
The history and origin of the unearthed chapel are scarcely known, but it probably had a close connection with the last Cistercian abbey of Poulton.
Although the abbey was removed in the 13th century, the Cistercians continued to dominate and shape the landscape around Chester until dissolution in 1534..
It has now been confirmed that at least two Roman buildings exist, one of which contained numerous brooches and coins.
The building even boasted windows fitted with glass, meaning it was probably an important temple or a villa belonging to a high ranking officer of the Roman occupation force.
The 12th-century abbey has not yet been traced but Mr Emery, brother of Hollywood actors Ralf and Joseph Fiennes, believes its remains lie in neighbouring land and is seeking permission to excavate the area.
The abbey was built by the Cistercian order of monks, and lasted only 50 years until the monastery was moved to Staffordshire and the site was converted into a monastic estate.
Already, around 160 skeletons have been excavated from the medieval cemetery. Computer scanning of the prehistoric mounds, due to take place at the end of this season, will give a guide to how many people's cremated remains are on the site.
Work on the Roman buildings has been delayed until next year when the site will feature in a special edition of Channel 4's Time Team, presented by Ralf Fiennes, who has visited the site along with Joseph and their sister, film director Sophie.
Cheshire Police are also supporting the project and sharing information with the dig team.
Crime scene investigators use archaeological techniques to remove bodies from shallow graves and Mr Emery's team has also been showing them how the shape of the landscape can help spot potential burial grounds.
Because there is no financial support for the project, much of the funding has been in the form of sponsorship from Daresbury Laboratories and also the Fiennes family, the Duke of Westminster and the Fair family, who own the neighbouring estate.
Mr Emery also works as a college lecturer to raise funds.
He added: "At the moment, we can support the project on around £30,000 each year.
"When I first came here in 1995, I had no idea the scale of this project would be so huge.
"Wherever we go on this land, we just pick up more and more information. This dig will be my only job for the next 20 years."