Video: Important Bronze Age find after quarry dig near Peterborough

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Proud archaeologists have pulled back the curtain on an excavation treasure trove for a breathtaking look into local life 3,000 years ago on Friday (9 December).

The University of Cambridge’s Archaeological Unit (CAU) has been working on a brick quarry five miles from Peterborough since August revealed one of the most significant Bronze Age finds ever seen in this country.

Kerry Murrell looks at the log boat found in Whittlesey which is believed to have been made circa 1300BC. PICTURE: PAUL FRANKS/Peterborough ET

Kerry Murrell looks at the log boat found in Whittlesey which is believed to have been made circa 1300BC. PICTURE: PAUL FRANKS/Peterborough ET

The evidence of a prehistoric Bronze Age society who fished and travelled in log boats emerged when six of the craft were found at the Must Farm quarry in Whittlesey.

The boats are in pristine condition after being preserved in silt and peat below the surface for hundreds of years.

They would have been used to get to Stanground, Fengate and Whittlesey, which were all islands in the Bronze Age.

The boats were covered in extensive carvings – the first evidence of local people decorating wooden boats from that era.

Cambridgeshire Archaeology Unit on site at Must Farm have discovered 6 wooden boats from an old water course, including what is believed to be the oldest boat found in the UK at 1300BC. Field Archaeologists Emma Rees and Toby Knight with an oak boat from circa 850BC. Photo: Paul Franks/Peterborough ET

Cambridgeshire Archaeology Unit on site at Must Farm have discovered 6 wooden boats from an old water course, including what is believed to be the oldest boat found in the UK at 1300BC. Field Archaeologists Emma Rees and Toby Knight with an oak boat from circa 850BC. Photo: Paul Franks/Peterborough ET

Six wooden boats were uncovered at different levels in the silted-up river, the longest being 8.35m.

Now talks have been held to keep some of the historic findings at either Peterborough Museum or the city’s other Bronze Age landmark, Flag Fen.

David Gibson, the CAU’s senior archaeological manager, said: “This is the pinnacle of what we have ever found – it is rare.

“Nothing has ever been found like this by design before – log boats are usually found by chance.”

Archaeologists were given access to the quarry ahead of an extension to the site by Hanson Brick, which owns the land. The new area of clay to be excavated lies at Jurassic-age levels, which means the dig team have been able to excavate far deeper than on normal digs.

David Weeks, PR manager for Hanson Brick, said: “Quarrying has a very important role to play in excavations and we are very pleased to have helped these outstanding findings.”

As well as the boats, the group also found a range of swords, spears, fish weirs and eel traps along the site, which is at the southern edge of the Flag Fen Basin.

In all, hundreds of objects have been found belonging to a community that lived on the River Nene, which flowed through the now dry site during the Bronze Age.

During this period the water table started to rise and by Roman times had become a swampy marsh, creating many fenland islands.

Mark Knight, the CAU’s senior project officer, added: “This shows that people were adapting. As it was getting wetter, people were trying to get around in boats here in Cambridgeshire.

“We also found glass beads from central Europe and pots from France.

The boats could have picked them up from international travellers at The Wash, or they could have been developed here as well.

“We hope they stay in Peterborough.

“We have had talks with Vivacity about keeping some of it in Flag Fen or the Peterborough Museum.”

The group will dig at the site until February 2012.

See also:

Must Farm dig photo gallery from Cambridge University on Flickr

Article: The Bronze Age – now in 3D - www.cam.ac.uk/research