Vital clues into how ancient Britons lived thousands of years ago have been unearthed on a bypass site. Among the items uncovered along the A142 between Newmarket and Fordham (Cambridgeshire, England) include skeletons from the Bronze Age and Iron Age, along with a body from Roman times... continues...
Extract taken from a paper read to the (archaeology) society April 5th 1832
"At the north end of the parish of Ashdon, in Essex, are certain artificial mounds. They consist of a line of four greater barrows, and a line of three smaller barrows, at the distance of between 70 and 80 feet in front of the others.
“The situation of these mounds is remarkable. They stand on a general acclivity in face of Bartlow church, the country gradually rising around them like an extended amphitheatre.
“Between the hills and the church is a hollow to the north, down which runs a little brook that divides the parishes of Ashdon and Bartlow, forming the boundary of the counties of Essex and Cambridgeshire.
“Though the hills do not belong to the parish of Bartlow, which is in Cambridgeshire, nor to the hamlet of Bartlow which is in Essex, still, from the received interpretation of the Saxon word Low, a barrow, it is clear that they give their name to the place, a proof of their antiquity”.
Should they be on TMA these early Romano-British mounds, unique of course, and large. But in truth they have to be seen just to say 'wow'.
Second visit and we always start from the church, past the Three Hills pub/hotel, turn right at the cross roads and the church will be on your right. Stand and admire the round towered church, note the two paths that run through the church yard, one will lead you to christianity, the other to a pagan past.
The remaining three mounds are surrounded by tall trees, an ecosystem has evolved in this large glade the chalk mounds are covered in long grass and wild flowers, this is what enchants the place. Butterflies dance at your feet, there is a surfeit of these dark brown creatures, damselflies and dragonflies from the nearby stream, bees buzz busily round the plants.
The three mounds so steeply sided protect the plants, Silbury comes easily to mind with the largest mound, at 45 foot high, though the Bartlow mound misses the mark it still comes second, you can read the history here.....
Flag Fen (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — News
Eight bronze age boats surface at Fens creek in record find
This site is about two miles from Flag Fen and it is where the boats will end up for conservation work. Probably ties up with Rhiannon's news. (Most news is old news)
3,000-year-old fleet discovered in a Cambridgeshire quarry on the outskirts of Peterborough
A fleet of eight prehistoric boats, including one almost nine metres long, has been discovered in a Cambridgeshire quarry on the outskirts of Peterborough.
The vessels, all deliberately sunk more than 3,000 years ago, are the largest group of bronze age boats ever found in the same UK site and most are startlingly well preserved. One is covered inside and out with decorative carving described by conservator Ian Panter as looking "as if they'd been playing noughts and crosses all over it". Another has handles carved from the oak tree trunk for lifting it out of the water. One still floated after 3,000 years and one has traces of fires lit on the wide flat deck on which the catch was evidently cooked.
Several had ancient repairs, including clay patches and an extra section shaped and pinned in where a branch was cut away. They were preserved by the waterlogged silt in the bed of a long-dried-up creek, a tributary of the river Nene, which buried them deep below the ground.
"There was huge excitement over the first boat, and then they were phoning the office saying they'd found another, and another, and another, until finally we were thinking, 'Come on now, you're just being greedy,'" Panter said.
The boats were deliberately sunk into the creek, as several still had slots for transoms – boards closing the stern of the boat – which had been removed.
Archaeologists are struggling to understand the significance of the find. Whatever the custom meant to the bronze age fishermen and hunters who lived in the nearby settlement, it continued for centuries. The team from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit is still waiting for the results of carbon 14 dating tests, but believes the oldest boats date from around 1,600 BC and the most recent 600 years later.
They already knew the creek had great significance – probably as a rich source of fish and eels – as in previous seasons at the Much Farm site they had found ritual deposits of metalwork, including spears.
The boats themselves may have been ritual offerings, or may have been sunk for more pragmatic reasons, to keep the timber waterlogged and prevent it from drying out and splitting when not in use – but in that case it seems strange that such precious objects were never retrieved.
Some of the boats were made from huge timbers, including one from an oak which must have had a metre-thick trunk and stood up to 20 metres tall. This would have been a rare specimen as sea levels rose and the terrain became more waterlogged, creating the Fenland landscape of marshes, creeks and islands of gravel.
"Either this was the Bermuda Triangle for bronze age boats, or there is something going on here that we don't yet understand," Panter said.
Kerry Murrell, the site director, said: "Some show signs of long use and repair – but others are in such good condition they look as if you could just drop the transom board back in and paddle away."
The boats were all nicknamed by the team, including Debbie – made of lime wood, and therefore deemed a blonde – and French Albert the Fifth Musketeer, the fifth boat found. Murrell's favourite is Vivienne, a superb piece of craftsmanship where the solid oak was planed down with bronze tools to the thickness of a finger, still so light and buoyant that when their trench filled with rainwater, they floated it into its cradle for lifting and transportation.
Because the boats were in such striking condition, they have been lifted intact and transported two miles, in cradles of scaffolding poles and planks, for conservation work at the Flag Fen archaeology site – where a famous timber causeway contemporary with the boats was built up over centuries until it stretched foralmost a mile across the fens.
"My first thought was to deal with them in the usual way, by chopping them into more manageably sized chunks, but when I actually saw them they just looked so nice, I thought we had to find another way," Panter, an expert on waterlogged timber from York Archaeological Trust, said. "I think if I'd arrived on the site with a chainsaw, the team would have strung me up."
Must Farm, now a quarry owned by Hanson UK, which has funded the excavation, has already yielded a wealth of evidence of prehistoric life, including a settlement built on a platform partly supported by stilts in the water, where artefacts including fabrics woven from wool, flax and nettles were found. Instead of living as dry-land hunters and farmers, the people had become experts at fishing: one eel trap found near the boats is identical to those still used by Peter Carter, the last traditional eel fisherman in the region.
The boats will be on display from Wednesday at Flag Fen, viewed through windows in a container chilled to below 5c – funded with a £100,000 grant from English Heritage which regards their discovery as of outstanding importance – built within a barn at the site. At the moment conservation technician Emma Turvey, dressed in layers of winter clothes, is spending up to eight hours a day spraying the timbers to keep them waterlogged and remove any potentially decaying impurities. They will then be impregnated with a synthetic wax, polyethylene glycol, before being gradually dried out over the next two years for permanent display.
Murrell is convinced there is more to be found down in the silt.
"The creek continued outside the boundaries of the quarry, so it's off our site – but the next person who gets a chance to investigate will find more boats, I can almost guarantee it."
Flag Fen (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes
Well signposted from the eastern side Peterborough.
It was a long journey but we had finally arrived at our destination – the famous Flag Fen. Probably like many reading this it had been a place I had wanted to visit for a number of years and it did seem slightly surreal to actually be here at last. We parked in the car park and quickly crossed the bridge into the visitor’s centre.
We were met by a very helpful chap at reception who provided up with a map and a quick overview of the site. There is also a small shop and café area.
Despite being a lovely sunny day, I was surprised to find that except for a handful of other people we were the only ones there, so pretty much had the place to ourselves.
We visited the reconstructed Bronze Age / Iron Age round houses, the Soay sheep (plus new born lambs which Sophie in particular liked), museum and of course the famous wooden causeway. I had seen the wooden planks both on TV and in books and I must confess in real life it looks just as confusing – little more than a jumble of wood. It does take a fair degree of the ‘eye of faith’ to see it for what it actually is.
It took us about an hour to go all around the site before we headed back for a cuppa and a sit outside on the veranda. It was a very peaceful place to be although I would imagine (hope) it gets a lot busier in the summer? It only cost £8.00 for a family ticket and was well worth the entrance fee.
I am pleased to report that Flag Fen lived up to my expectations and I guess the only disappointment was not seeing Francis Pryor lurking about amongst the reeds!
Although we did see a heron close up and a fox lurking in the undergrowth.
Flag Fen is well worth the effort of a visit – I am sure you won’t be disappointed.
Follow the directions previously given by Kammer but be aware that the mentioned second information board no longer exists. My advice would be to park on the brow of the hill, just before the road descends down towards the stone bridge crossing the river. There is ample parking.
The stones were not visible from the road due to the trees and undergrowth.
I managed to find a gap in the bushes and pushed my way through onto the cultivated field the other side. It then didn’t take long to spot the stones.
They are in a small fenced off area at the edge of the field, amongst the undergrowth.
Now, I don’t claim to be in any way an expert on ‘old stones’ but I have seen a few over the years. And as Chris points out they certainly don’t appear to be prehistoric. At least if they are they look as though they have been subsequently worked as they are too square to be natural?
Each stone is approximately 2.5ft high x 8 inches across and lean towards the south.
Both stones are covered in green/yellow and white lichen.
These stones are not the easiest to find and given their somewhat dubious ‘history’ it is not a site I would recommend unless you are particularly keen.
It took me ages to find the museum until Karen pointed out that we were parked behind it and had actually walked past the place on the way into the city centre.
I blame the information hoarding which was hiding the stone!
There isn’t a lot you can say about the stone itself.
It is small – approx 1ft high x 2ft across x 2inch wide.
Looks a bit like a small headstone
Had a few strange looks from museum staff out of the window as I was admiring the stone in the middle of their newly mown lawn.
Not much to recommend a visit unless you happened to have parked behind the museum and happen to be walking past the stone…………………..!