A 2,000-YEAR-OLD Roman villa unearthed on Portland could be covered over with a sports field.
Islanders are concerned that the newly-discovered ancient site, on playing fields opposite Royal Manor Arts College at Weston, could be hidden away again.
Workmen preparing a new all-weather playing surface for the school called in experts after finding `rubble' and a series of buried walls under the topsoil.
An examination by the county council's senior archaeologist Steve Wallis found the remains of a well-preserved first century Roman building and related artefacts.
Work on the college's sports field has now been called off pending further excavations, but Mr Wallis said the find could be covered up and built over.
He said: "One of the options is to change the method of construction of the playing surface, which would mean we would not dig so far down.
"We would effectively cover the site with the surface, which would close off access indefinitely."
Mr Wallis claimed such a find on Portland was unusual. He said: "Most archaeological remains on the island were destroyed as the quarries were created.
"If it is a Roman villa it is of interest.
"The archaeological team will need to take a little time to analyse the findings before the next steps are taken."
Experts have called for the site to be fully excavated, hailing the find as one of the most significant ever on the island.
Director of the Association for Portland Archaeology Susann (corr) Palmer said it was potentially of national importance and needed to be properly investigated.
She said: "The site is so important and of such high educational potential that it must be properly excavated.
"It would be an absolute disgrace not to allow this to happen."
Mrs Palmer added: "I do not have any faith in the idea of covering the site up and leaving it for the future.
"Dorset has several good sites where this policy was followed with the inevitable results that nature, time and man has completely ruined them."
Island historian Stuart Morris said he had been overwhelmed by the find.
He said: "The word amazing comes to mind.
"I think it is the potentially the most significant Roman find on Portland in recent times.
"I hope we can take advantage of this now, and not have to leave it to future generations."
Mr Morris said Romans had been on the island in some force during the first to fourth centuries.
Portland Museum is home to a Roman stone coffin - one of scores found when quarries on the island were excavated last century.
Roman coins have also been found during excavations at Southwell and the Verne.
Mr Morris added: "The land at Weston is one of the few untouched sites on the Portland.
"To find a preserved site on a piece of land which hasn't been excavated is quite remarkable."
Portland Town mayor Kris Haskins said the island needed to make the most of the find.
He said: "We cannot keep destroying archaeology on the island - we have already lost so much."
Director of the government-funded Council for British Archaeology Michael Heyworth urged the county council to make the most of the find.
He said: "Sites in places like Dorset can make significant contributions to our state of knowledge.
"We need to make the most of opportunities like this when they come up.
"While we know about the greater Roman frame work, there's still an awful lot of find out."
The site is on more than five acres of land owned by Dorset County Council.
Royal Manor Arts College's all-weather playing service had been planned to be ready in a matter of weeks.
The school's head teacher Paul Green said he would be disappointed to lose extra games space if the development could not go ahead.
He said: "I am excited by the prospect of having a major archaeological site next door.
"It looks like it is a substantial building, which is very interesting for the school and Portland.
"But we do need the new pitch, so hopefully we might be able to work around it but we will have to see."