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Prehistoric Britain

Ancient Causeway Discovery

Edited from BBC News, 3 August 2006

Evidence of a prehistoric causeway was uncovered during flood defence work on the marshes of Suffolk in 2006.

Contractors working on the Environment Agency's excavation of a new dyke on Beccles town marshes found timber remains which had been hand-sculpted. Archaeologists said the wooden causeway was used from the Bronze Age around 1000 BC, through the Iron Age, to the Roman period and the effective end of Roman administration in the late fourth century AD.

The site would then be analysed and dated with the results due to be published later in 2006.

Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham and Suffolk County Council Archaeological Field Services Team were called in to investigate the find. Results suggested that the wooden causeway - which measured more than eight hundred metres in length and five metres in width - may have run from dry land on the edge of Beccles across a swamp to a spot on the River Waveney.

National importance

A thirty metre section of the causeway had already been recorded with more than forty in-situ timber posts uncovered. The causeway would have carried carts and was the Bronze Age equivalent of a motorway. The wet conditions of the site meant that organic material such as wood was well preserved.

Jane Sidell, from English Heritage, stated that this was the first such structure to have been discovered within Suffolk, and was one of only a few in Britain, and as such was a nationally important find.

It provided an excellent opportunity to examine ancient, possibly ritual, use of the marshland, and how the marshes had developed over time.

Dr Henry Chapman, from the University of Birmingham, pointed out that this causeway had been used for a tremendous amount of time - around 1500 years - which was unique as far as was known, something which certainly hadn't been seen in British archaeology before.

It had been added to over time in order to preserve it, which shows its importance to early Beccles.



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