Archaeologists believe a Roman stone coffin uncovered in York could hold burial secrets from almost 2,000 years ago.

As reported in later editions of yesterday's Evening Press, the gypsum burial site at Mill Mount, near Scarcroft Road, could contain some of the best preserved remains found for 60 years in the city.

Andrew Morrison, curator of archaeology at York Museums Trust, said it was possible that the actual face of the individual may be preserved in the plaster-like burial materials.

He said: "We have never had an opportunity to examine one of these gypsum burials using modern technology. We are hoping to find all kinds of evidence about the person buried here. We may even be able to see a cast of the face, their body and even the threads of the clothes they were buried in."

Workers carefully removed the heavy sandstone coffin to a specially-created storage facility so that it can acclimatise before experts begin further examinations.

They plan to use Army mobile X-ray machines to look underneath the gypsum covering before any physical work takes place.

The coffin will eventually be put on display at the Yorkshire Museum. It was discovered underneath the car park at Shepherd Homes' Mill Mount development site, where builders are preparing the ground for a 24-apartment development.

Mark Shepherd, chairman of Shepherd Homes, said: "From our point of view it is a very exciting discovery and we are delighted to be able to share it with the community.

"From time to time we find something like this on our building sites, but rarely is it as special as this once-in-a-lifetime discovery."

Updated: 11:19 Wednesday, February 16, 2005