A “very unusual” Middle Bronze Age settlement has been found by archaeologists working along the route of Norwich’s new northern bypass.
Evidence has been unearthed in Horsford including artefacts such as pottery, flint and a complete spindle wheel.
Oxford Archaeology East said the network of fields was separated by post holes rather than ditches, which makes it surprising.
A spokesman said it was of “potentially national significance”.
Project manager Tom Phillips said the settlement, dating from between 1500-1200 BC, was made up of a “large rectangular ditched enclosure” and about eight to ten roundhouses.
But there was also a network of post hole alignments – rows of closely spaced posts – dividing fields.
Mr Phillips said: “This is very unusual, we have no parallels for how it looks.”
He said that while much of southern England was divided into field systems at that time, they had ditched boundaries. Post hole boundaries were unusual because they were not as practical.
He said other experts would now be consulted to see if there were similar examples and to establish why they might have been used.
“It is possible that it was an important settlement where people met and they needed to make it look more visually impressive and show they could generate the labour needed to create such an environment,” he said.
The discovery was made close to where the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR) will run.
Norfolk County Council’s historic environment manager David Gurney, said: “Such Bronze Age settlement evidence is always difficult to find so the NDR excavation results will be of regional and national significance.”
The council said the excavation of the NDR route was programmed as part of the project so the find will not cause delays.