Back in December I visited the excavations at a site called Must Farm near Peterborough. It is a fantastically preserved Bronze Age house and associated structures, including at least a walkway and a palisade. Since then there have been more exciting finds that have added to our understanding of life at the site when it was occupied.
Just to recap: the site was discovered sticking out the edge of a quarry in 1999 and it is sad to say that as the site is situated on the edge of a brick pit, some of the site has been quarried away, leaving what the team believe to be approximately half of the settlement to investigate. There were two evaluative excavations in 2004 and 2006 which suggested that the site was extraordinarily rich in artefacts and evidence of life in the Bronze Age. The site has at least two phases, with part of the settlement built on top of a series of piles sunk into a river sometime around 1300 – 1000 BC. Slightly later than this, probably between 1000 – 800 BC an enclosure consisting of wooden posts driven into the ground was constructed around the main platform. The reason why we have such an incredible site to explore now, is that there was a fire that led to the platform and all that was on it, falling into the river over which it was built. The fire of course was extinguished immediately, preventing any further damage, and as the timbers and other material lay on the riverbed it was covered with layers of silt which helped to preserve everything from wooden utensils to clothing. It is this degree of preservation which makes the site fascinating and gives us insights into life during the Bronze Age. You can see in close-up some of the fantastic discoveries made at the site here.
When I visited Must Farm the excavation work had progressed enough to see elements of the house emerging out of the deposits. In the gallery below you can see how from the initial overhead view, with a little help from the project team, the various elements of the structure of the house become clear.
Apart from the house there have been really exciting finds – the contents of the house itself! Among the recent finds have been a small wooden box (complete with lid), wooden tableware (bowls and a platter), querns (grindstones), ceramic bowls (with contents), animal bones (including pig, sheep and deer). The team have reported interesting differences “between material inside the roundhouse and that outside of it”. There is an apparent patterning in the animal bone clusters with sheep/lamb bones being found inside the house, while outside the house are the butchered remains of pigs and deer. The item which has got most attention however, is the most complete wheel from the Bronze Age found in Britain! In the image here, the wheel can be seen in front of the archaeologist who is carefully excavating it. There’s more detail on the wheel here.
One of the things which has been said about the site is that it is exceptional, and it is – but only in the sense of the degree of preservation of the house, its contents and associated environmental data. The project team, and I have to agree with them, think that the very nature of the finds points to a ‘domestic’, even ‘everyday’ settlement where the day-today life of the people who lived there has been caught in a snapshot. A very valuable snapshot it must be said.
We’ll be keeping an eye on the project to see what else emerges over the coming weeks – who knows what they’ll find next!