December 5, 2011

Massive Collection of Bronze Age Artifacts Discovered in UK

Hundreds of intact artifacts recovered from the Cambridgeshire Fens in eastern England have provided scientists with new insight as to how Bronze Age men and women lived their lives on a day-to-day basis, according to UK media reports published over the weekend.

According to the Daily Mail, the discovery is "the largest collection ever found in one place in Britain" includes a variety of roughly 3,000 year old items, including wicker baskets, wooden sword handles, textile fragments, and six boats fashioned from oak tree trunks which were said to be "in such good condition that the wood grain can be seen clearly, as can signs of repairs by their owners."

Furthermore, Dalya Alberge of the Observer reports that containers of food were found at the site, "including a bowl with a wooden spoon still wedged into the contents, now analyzed as nettle stew, which may have been a favorite dish in 1000BC."

Alberge reports that only a fraction of the artifacts found at the site have been uncovered as of Saturday, and that Mark Night, senior project official working on the dig, said that the objects were in "pristine" condition because they had been embedded in deep layers of silt and peat.

They were discovered "submerged under an ancient watercourse along the southern edge of the Flag Fen Basin, land altered over millennia by rising sea levels," the Observer reporter said. "At ground level, there had been no clue to the artifacts' existence because they were so deep -- four meters below ground — and would not have been picked up by aerial, radar, or other exploratory surveys."

As for the artifacts themselves, Alberge said, "Along the 150-metre stretch of a bronze age river channel, they have found the best preserved example of prehistoric river life. There are weirs and fish traps in the form of big woven willow baskets, plus fragments of garments with ornamental hems made from fibrous bark and jewelery, including green and blue beads. Extensive finds of metalwork include bronze swords and spears, some apparently tossed into the river in perfect condition, possibly as votive offerings. One of the boats is 8.3 meters long."

David Gibson, head of Cambridge University's archaeological unit, heads up the excavation, which could take years to be fully completed, according to the Daily Mail. Once they are fully recovered, they will be preserved and ultimately put on display to the public.


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