Plymouth Archaeology Society

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Plymouth Archaeology Society


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 MONDAY 9th APRIL 2018

Monday 9th April 2018


What can this Fenland site tell us about Bronze Age life in Britain?

Mark Knight

In January 2016 the excavation of the Must Farm settlement captured the public imagination. Dubbed ‘Britain’s Pompeii’, the excavations at the edge of a working quarry at Whittlesey, outside of Peterborough, revealed some of the most extraordinary Late Bronze Age (c.1000 – 800BC) archaeology ever discovered in Europe. Objects discovered include a tiny wooden box, with contents still inside, intact pots, animal bones, textiles, glass beads, and a perfectly preserved wheel. The survival of these items was a matter of chance, preserved when a fire caused the collapse of the dwellings causing the timbers and objects to fall into the silt of the river, ensuring the survival. The excavations yielded the largest assemblage of domestic metalwork from Britain, the largest and finest collection of textiles from the British Bronze Age, and an astonishing range of wooden artefacts, all of which helped to provide an amazing insight of the ordinary lives of people in the Fens 3,000 years ago. However, this was not only phase of activity at the site; excavations also revealed a causeway, similar to Flag Fen, dating to between c.1290 – 1250BC. Post-excavation analysis is on-going, but Must Farm must be placed amongst the greatest archaeological sites in Britain.

This is the theme of the next Plymouth Archaeology Society winter lecture on Monday 2nd April 2018 starting at 19:00 in the Devonport Lecture Theatre, Portland Square, Plymouth University. All members and visitors are welcome, with a £4 charge for non-members. We thank Peninsula Arts for their gracious support for the society and our events.

The talk, subtitled ‘What can this Fenland Site tell us about Bronze Age Life in Britain’, will focus on the results of the excavations at Must Farm. The site was first discovered 1999, with a small evaluation excavation in 2004 followed by a larger excavation in 2006. These excavations started to reveal the richness of the artefacts preserved at the site, and uncovered the history of the dwellings, showing how they were constructed and what lead to their destruction. After 2006 the site was left preserved in situ, but in 2016 with ground conditions deteriorating an excavation was undertaken between August 2015 and August 2016. It was these excavations that fully exposed the best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found in Britain. The discoveries place Must Farm alongside similar European Prehistoric Wetland sites such as the crannogs in Scotland and Ireland, stilt houses around the Alpine Lakes and the terps of Friesland

Mark Knight is site director of the Must Farm excavations carried out by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, with funding by Historic England and the building firm Forterra. Mark specialises in prehistoric landscapes, as well as Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery. His interests include exploring later prehistoric contexts of inhabitation and mobility and comprehending the lives of people in southern Britain between 3800 - 800BC. His first experience of archaeology was with the Exeter Museum Archaeological Field Unit, after which he left to study archaeology. He joined the Cambridge Archaeological Unit in 1995, and was the winner of the Current Archaeology ‘Archaeologist of the Year’ in 2017.

Parking is available for free on the University Campus, but please park in a designated bay, with disabled parking nearby. There are other parking spaces available near the campus, including the multi-storey car park at Regent Street. The lecture theatre is easily reached by public transport.  

Plymouth Archaeology Society (PAS) consists mainly of amateur members with an enthusiastic interest in a wide range of archaeological disciplines. We wish to share our enthusiasm for archaeology in general and provide better knowledge and support for the abundant local sites in our area.

Visitors are invited to attend any of our regular meetings (coach trips require pre-booking) and we hope you will be tempted to become a full member. PAS is open to all to apply for membership (membership information).

P.A.S. organise monthly winter lectures by invited guest speakers (winter programme). The summer programme consists of visits to local sites of interest. These are usually guided by experts with local knowledge of the site concerned (summer programme). The summer programme is augmented by coach trips to sites a little further afield. These are usually day trips but can occasionally involve a weekend away.

We also organise workshops to benefit those with a practical interest in archaeology. In the past these have included - surveying for archaeologists, geophysics and pollen analysis (archaeology workshops).

Any damage or threats to archaeological sites should be reported urgently to either The City Archaeologist based in the Planning Dept (01752 305433) or the City Museum (01752 304774). Archaeological finds should be reported to the City Museum.