Archaeologists follow in 3,000 year old wheel tracks to trace story of Must Farm settlement

Bronze Age wheel found at Must Farm archaeological dig at Kings Dyke. EMN-160218-133036009
Bronze Age wheel found at Must Farm archaeological dig at Kings Dyke. EMN-160218-133036009
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A unique 3,000 year old wheel found in a quarry near Peterborough is helping archaeologists learn more about how Bronze Age settlers lived.

The wheel has been found at Must Farm in Whittlesey, and it the largest and most complete Bronze Age wheel ever discovered in Britain.

Bronze Age wheel found at Must Farm archaeological dig at Kings Dyke. EMN-160218-132802009

Bronze Age wheel found at Must Farm archaeological dig at Kings Dyke. EMN-160218-132802009

The artefact was found inside one of the roundhouses built at the site 3,000 years ago, and is the latest discovery at the site, which has been dubbed ‘Peterborough’s Pompeii.’

The houses were destroyed by a fire before it was preserved in the clay.

The wheel is so well preserved that even part of the axle is still attached.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “This remarkable but fragile wooden wheel is the earliest complete example ever found in Britain. The existence of this wheel expands out understanding of late Bronze Age technology and the level of sophistication of the lives of people living on the edge of the Fens 3,000 years ago.”

Bronze Age wheel found at Must Farm archaeological dig at Kings Dyke. EMN-160218-132629009

Bronze Age wheel found at Must Farm archaeological dig at Kings Dyke. EMN-160218-132629009

While the wheel has answered some questions, it has posed a number of others for archaeologists.

The wooden roundhouses found on the site were built on stilts above the River Nene.

Mark Knight Site Director, Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Division of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, said: “This shows the real schizophrenia of the site. For all the wetland activity, they went to the land for their items. They were eating lamb, deer and barely, and used carts to transport the surplus.

“We don’t know if we will find another wheel here - we did not expect to find this one.”

Bronze Age wheel found at Must Farm archaeological dig at Kings Dyke. Pictured is expert Mark Knight EMN-160218-133112009

Bronze Age wheel found at Must Farm archaeological dig at Kings Dyke. Pictured is expert Mark Knight EMN-160218-133112009

“The wheel is very fragile - you can see bits flaking, as it is in part of the site that was not as well preserved as the other parts of the site. It will be lifted out and preserved.”

The Must Farm site has become recognised as the best preserved Bronze Age settlement ever found in the country.

Historic England and Quarry company Foterra are funding a £1.1 million project to excavate the site.

Along with the new discovery of the wheel, archaeologists have found pots still containing food, textiles and tools from the period, along with he timbers that

Francis Pryor, the archaeologist who discovered Flag Fen, said the quality of the work taking place was outstanding. He said: “There is not a nick on any of the pieced. It is outstanding. The rule normally is that you can have one nick - when it is first discovered - but from then on you have to be so careful.”

Mr Pryor added the site was very exciting for researchers trying to find out what life was like during the Bronze Age. He said: “It is not the things that we find here that matter - it is the story they tell.”

More: Walking back in time to the Bronze Age