Archaeologists announce national award for Britain’s Bronze Age “Pompeii”
The Bronze Age settlement of Must Farm, described as “Britain’s Pompeii” was awarded 2016 Best Archaeological Discovery at the British Archaeological Awards this week by an independent panel of archaeologists for uncovering a “lost world” buried deep beneath the Fenland just outside Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire.
Uniquely preserved Bronze Age dwellings and everyday household goods have all been unearthed by archaeologists, preserved in the river into which they fell following a Bronze age house fire three thousand years ago.
Mark Knight, Site Director said, “The Must Farm Timber Platform is the best preserved Bronze Age settlement ever excavated in the UK. This ‘lost world’ will reshape our understanding of the British Bronze Age.”
Recent major excavations by Cambridge Archaeological Unit, funded by Historic England and quarry site owner, Forterra, have just come to an end this week, revealing five circular wooden houses dating back to 1000-800 BCE, the earliest and most complete wooden wheel and horse skeleton, along with textiles, pots and glass beads used by the residents who were forced to flee their burning homes.
David Gibson, Archaeological Manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, University of Cambridge said: “Usually at a Later Bronze Age period site you get pits, post-holes and maybe one or two really exciting metal finds. Convincing people that such places were once thriving settlements takes some imagination. But this time so much more has been preserved. Reconstructions of prehistoric roundhouses will now be based on actual structural remains as opposed to posthole plans and educated supposition. We can actually see everyday life during the Bronze Age in the round. It’s prehistoric archaeology in 3D with unsurpassed finds both in terms of range and quantity.”
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, who funded the recent excavations, said: “We are delighted that Must Farm has been awarded Best Discovery at this year’s British Archaeological Awards. With the 10 month excavation now coming to a close we are excited at the prospect of learning more about life in the Bronze Age from further research into the discoveries at Must Farm.”
Other discoveries showcased by British Archaeological Award winners include the largest ever excavation in the city of Oxford, which revealed a medieval friary on the site of the Westgate shopping centre development, and recent development-led excavations Under London which have unearthed amazing remains and artefacts beneath the pavements, telling the story of the capital through time. The Battles, Bricks and Bridges community project in Northern Ireland overruled the experts by relocating the site of their local battlefield in Co. Fermanagh and identifying a metal artefact found nearby as a rare Irish Bronze Age sword, unique to the area.
The history and archaeology of the Welsh Slate industry, currently being considered for World Heritage status, is explored in this year’s Best Archaeological Book, while innovative Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and 3D modelling enable readers to examine prehistoric carvings on the Star Carr Mesolithic pendant and interpret the past for themselves in an online article published by the Postglacial Project.
Eminent archaeologist, Sir Barry Cunliffe CBE, renowned for his work on the Celts and his groundbreaking excavations at Danebury Iron Age hill fort and Fishbourne Roman Palace, received the 2016 Award for Outstanding Achievement.
DCMS Heritage Minister, Tracey Crouch, said “British archaeologists are world leaders in their field and the British Archaeological Awards celebrates their achievements and the new discoveries and stories they have unearthed.”
Deborah Williams, Chair of the British Archaeological Awards commented, “The entries this year reflect the incredible wealth and range of archaeology that is going on across the UK, the quality and expertise of our world-leading archaeologists, and the ever increasing fascination of the British public with the history and archaeology of their local area.”
The winners of this year’s British Archaeological Awards were announced at the British Museum on 11 July, by ‘Meet the Ancestors’ archaeologist Julian Richards and historian Bettany Hughes in association with digital media partner, Culture24. The event marked the launch of the annual Festival of Archaeology with over 1000 public hands-on events, many free, on offer to the public across the UK from 16-31 July.
The British Archaeological Awards entries are judged by independent panels made up of leading experts from across the archaeology field in the UK.
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Notes for editors:
Must Farm Awards presentation image can be downloaded here
Must Farm project image can be downloaded here
The British Archaeological Awards take place every two years to recognise excellence and innovation in archaeology and are managed by an independent charity, chaired by Deborah Williams of Historic England, and trustees and judges from across the archaeology profession. The 2016 Awards are sponsored by the Robert Kiln Trust, The Society of Antiquaries of London, The British Museum, Portable Antiquities Scheme, Historic England, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, Archaeology Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, and Cadw. www.archaeologicalawards.org.uk
Winners’ videos are now published on the British Archaeological Awards website
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