Must Farm Bronze Age site - Update, Apr 2016
Today the Must Farm site is a busy brick quarry near the River Nene in Cambridgeshire. But thousands of years ago in the Bronze Age, everything looked very different. A river would have flowed through the site and the areas around would have been marshy and boggy.
In October 2015, Selina Davenport from the Cambridge University Archaeological Unit (CUAU), gave YAC an introduction to the site and the amazing archaeology that the team have been uncovering. She updated us with more exciting news about how the site was destroyed by fire in her second blog post.
Now, Selina explains how the dig is exploring the insides of the roundhouses, and trying to work out how the devastating fire spread...
Throwing light on how roundhouses were built – and how ours burnt!
We have now started lifting the mass of wood that makes up the collapsed remains of our roundhouses. As we dug away the silts which have protected the site for 3,000 years it became obvious to us that we were looking at roundhouses which had collapsed in the river. This was really exciting for us as this wasn’t what we had expected. As well as understanding how our site was built we are hopeful that the evidence we are finding can help us understand how roundhouses were built on dry land during the Bronze Age as well.
Sometimes the evidence is different types of worked joints and tool marks on the wood; other times it is different ways the wood has been burnt. On some pieces of wood we see voids or different types of charring where pieces of wood have been resting against each other. We are also seeing patterns across the whole site showing more or less intense charring. We are working with a modern fire investigator to help us understand what these differences mean and whether we can begin to understand how the fire might have started and spread through the settlement.
We think there are several structures which make up the settlement. We don’t know what they are all for yet. Some of them appear to be houses where people would have been living but some maybe other types of buildings for storage or other purposes. We will understand this better when we dig underneath the wood. What we can see already is just how close all the buildings are to each other. The roofs of two of the roundhouses would have almost been touching. This might help to explain how the fire spread through the settlement so quickly.
Inside the roundhouse
Now we have lifted the roof of the structure we are starting to see what was inside the house in its final moments. We have found some beautiful wooden artefacts like a carved wooden box with a groove around the top where a lid could have sat. We have also uncovered the earliest complete wheel to be found in the UK! A very similar one was found at Flag Fen which is very close to our site.
One of the things the archaeologists at Must Farm are really hoping we will be able to do, is understand if there were different zones and types of use within roundhouses in prehistory. So far we have only begun to excavate one roundhouse but we are seeing different types of material in different areas. So far we have one area with a lot of small animal bones, another with several pots, and another with evidence of craft activities like weaving. It will be interesting as we continue to excavate to see if these patterns are the same in the other houses and how the other structures might have been used.
Blog by Selina Davenport, Cambridge University Archaeological Unit (CUAU)
You can continue to keep up with developments at the amazing Must Farm site by visiting their website: www.mustfarm.com
And keep visiting the YAC website for more updates too!