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A medieval boat, sunk in a river estuary off Wales about eight centuries ago, is emerging slowly from the mud with some of its cargo intact.

Archaeologists say the 50-foot vessel has been well-preserved under the bed of the Severn River near Magor, Gwent, and is one of the most significant maritime finds in Britain.About half the sunken boat, including part of the bow, has survived a yard below the river bed.

Project manager Nigel Nayling said tree-ring dating of the ship's planks showed it was built after the mid-12th century. Remains of its cargo of iron ore also were found.

It was spotted by chance last year by local nature reserve warden Derek Upton, who noticed a shape protruding from the thick mud.

Mud-splattered experts from Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust were excavating the site, working at low tide behind a protective wall of sandbags. They plan to place a cradle beneath the boat and raise it gently by crane.