The astonishingly well preserved remains of two Bronze Age houses and their contents have been discovered at a quarry site in Peterborough.
The circular wooden houses stood on stilts in a waterlogged fenland site beside the ancient course of the river Nene.
It’s believed a fire broke out and the buildings collapsed into the water, where they were covered by silt, which preserved many of the artefacts. These are now the best preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found in Britain.
“Astonishing, unbelievable. In the sense that I’m standing here next to an intact Bronze Age roundhouse with the roof still stuck on top of it. It’s the home of someone 3,000 years ago and we’re going to go inside of it,” says Mark Knight, Senior Project Officer at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
The archaeology team from the University of Cambridge’s Archaeological Unit is trying to establish the cause of the fire, which the people apparently fled leaving behind their tools and even their food: among the charred beams of the collapsed roof, they have found animal bones, textiles and even jars with food still inside.
“We found 29 complete vessels which is something that is really exciting for archaeologists, but what is even better than that is that there is actually preserved food remains in here and this food is basically the remains of a meal that was being eaten at the time the settlement was destroyed by a fire, which is something that is phenomenally rare to find, not just in Britain, but in Europe,” says Chris Wakefield, Outreach Officer at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit .
The team is making new discoveries every day. The first human remains, a skull still half buried in the silt, was discovered a few weeks ago and they hope to find a complete skeleton.
“The nearest analogy I can think of is Pompeii, where there was a catastrophe and everybody left very quickly leaving behind all their food vessels, and in some cases people died in the process. Now we don’t know about that yet, but we have found human remains which we are in the process of excavating,” says Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive at Historic England, a public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Other artefacts such as glass beads, delicate drinking cups and textiles have hinted at a sophistication not usually associated with the Bronze Age according to archaeologists.