Work is set to start on a nine month excavation in Must Farm clay quarry in Whittlesey where archaeologists from the Archaeological Unit at Cambridge University hope to uncover more about life in Bronze Age Britain.
Cambridgeshire County Council’s Historic Environment Team are involved in the four year project which is being jointly funded by Historic England, formerly known as English Heritage, and Hanson Building Products.
Archaeologists from the council have been involved with the planning advice and project regulation and monitoring of this scheme since its initial discovery in 2006. Attempts were made to preserve it in situ, but the location of the site at the edge of the quarry meant that this was unviable in the long term.
The settlement was built on piles over a river channel and dates to the end of the Bronze Age (1000-800 BC). It was surrounded by a tight ring of wooden posts known as a palisade and was destroyed by a dramatic fire that caused the structure to collapse into the river, preserving the contents in situ. The result is an extraordinary time capsule of life in the late Bronze Age.
The county’s senior archaeologist, Kasia Gdaniec said “We think those living in the settlement were forced to leave everything behind when it caught on fire so that an extraordinarily rich range of goods and objects are present in the river deposits, some of which were found during an evaluation in 2006.
“Among the items was a charred pot with vitrified food inside it and a partially charred spoon suggesting that the site had been abandoned quickly. We anticipate that more of the timber structure, a range of organic remains and fishing equipment, and the whole gamut of personal, work and settlement paraphernalia will be found. But we are hoping not to find remains of people that may have suffered the impact of the fire, though this possibility cannot be ruled out. It’s an exciting excavation as finds are well preserved due to the waterlogged sediments within this former river channel.”
Previous finds suggest there is much more to be discovered in what remains of this settlement. It won’t be until late summer that these types of finds from this excavation will start to emerge.