Must Farm Bronze Age site - Update, Jan 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. In this second blog post, Selina explains how the dig is developing, and describes some of the incredible and unique discoveries that have been made...
Discovery of a wooden palisade
We have been on site since September 2015, and thanks to our large warehouse we have been able to continue the excavation despite the wet weather.
Slowly removing the river silts that have protected the site for thousands of years is a slow process, but we are beginning to reveal the wooden structure of the settlement. The site appears to have been surrounded by a large oval fence line or palisade. This has been constructed by placing straight ash poles very close together, almost touching. Within this enclosure we see large posts which are mainly oak. We believe that these posts would have supported the platform above the river, upon which the homes of the people were built. As well as these large upright posts, we are also seeing the collapsed remains of the houses and platform in between the posts.
Tool marks and evidence for fire!
The large timbers show evidence of working with tool marks and have the types of woodworking joints still used today. They also show different types of burning and it is this evidence which makes us feel sure there was a fire here in the Bronze Age. Some of the pieces are lightly scorched and others are almost like charcoal. We are working with a fire investigator, who normally investigates modern fires, to map the different types of burning. We are hoping to use this information to re-construct the fire virtually to see where (and maybe how) it started.
Unusual stratigraphy and amazing finds
On a normal site, the archaeology builds up over time with the oldest things at the bottom and the most recent things at the top. These layers are called the stratigraphy of the site. Although we see this happening in the river as a whole, we don’t see this in the destruction of our settlement. We see the material culture (the finds) below all the wooden elements. We think this happens because, during the fire as the building starts to collapse, the heaviest things like the pots and tools fall into the river and sink a bit into the river silts. This is good for us as this is one way they are so well preserved. Then the lighter and more buoyant items, like the timbers, eventually sink when they become more waterlogged.
In and around this wood layer, we are starting to see little glimpses of what we hope to find beneath. We are seeing areas with lots of small pieces of pottery and other places with more animal bone. It’s too early to see if this is a pattern and might show which areas of the platform were being used for different activities but we are hoping we will be able to see this in the future.
We have found a very small but intricate piece of woven textile. We don’t know what it might have been yet or what it was made of but the pieces of textile we found in 2006 were made from plant fibres, we had expected them to be made from wool. We expect, as we get deeper, to find more complete items which are helping us to build up a vibrant picture of life at Must Farm in the Bronze Age.
Hopefully 2016 will bring lots of new surprises as we continue our excavation. You can continue to keep up with us using the website www.mustfarm.com
And keep visiting the YAC website for more updates too!
Blog by Selina Davenport, Cambridge University Archaeological Unit (CUAU)