Must Farm Timber Platform Village
Must Farm is situated in the Cambridgeshire Fenland near Flag Fen and was used to extract clay in the twentieth century. The workings were closed for a while but reopened in 2004, at that time some timbers were noted protruding from the edge of the excavation. These timbers showed little sign of decay and were assumed to be relatively modern, perhaps surplus that had been discarded during the earlier period of working. In 2006 the timbers re-examined and a sample sent away for carbon dating. This, to everyone's surprise, yielded a date some 3,000 years in the past in the bronze age.
The archaeologists realised that this could be a very important site, however they also knew that it would be very expensive to excavate and decided to leave the site undisturbed until funding became available. They also decided to monitor the site while they awaiting funding opportunities. Bore-holes were dug at regular intervals to assess the condition of the site but there was disagreements between the experts as if deterioration was taking place. A proposal was put to English Heritage requesting funds and they agreed to provide 50% of the required amount agreed in 2015, the clay quarry company generously agreeing to pay the rest of the funding.
Work stated in August 2015 and has progressed very well. In the short time since excavation started the archaeologists have identified the support and roof timbers from three round-houses, a Ash-timbered palisade wall and a causeway built from Oaken piles. It is still early days yet, but it would appear that this Fenland village was raised on stilts and sat above about two feet of water. The village appears to have been destroyed by fire, with the inhabitants being either unwilling or unable to rescue their belongings from their homes. The stilts are still in their original positions and the roof timbers appear to have dropped vertically into the water and were preserved in the mud/clay.
The roof timbers and thatch will give us a very good idea of exactly how the dwelling were constructed and are in an amazingly state of preservation and, hopefully, the scorching will give clues as to the seat of the fire and how it spread through the village.
The site has been called the British Pompeii for it is a remarkable state of preservation, with items hastily abandoned and provides a snap-shot of this settlement some 3,000 years in the past. The bodies of the villagers are missing and it is hoped that they escaped from the conflagration with their lives.
We were as able to view (and touch) the artefacts excavated to date. These consisted of a number of fired-clay pots (complete and finely made), some of the pots even had the original contents, leading to the view that the settlement was very hastily abandoned.
The palisade wall is also very interesting as the timbers used (which are still exceptionally well preserved) are of the same maturity, and one concludes that these were purpose grown in an area of managed woodland. As they were driven meters deep into the fen bed, it must have taken an amazing amount of effort to construct this defensive structure.
The palisade encircled the site but so far only about half of it (an guess based on its shape) appears to have been uncovered leading to an assumption that we are seeing only half of the original settlement.
The causeway was constructed of massive oaked timbers driven deep into the marsh and (we assumed) would have stretched a considerable distance, effectively bridging this fenland from North to South. It can be no coincidence that the village was sited here.
Photos From the Visit
This is an exciting and unique site that allows us insight into the lives of the Bronze Age Britons that lived in this settlement. Work is continuing with great care to examine the site and to preserve as much as possible for future generations/research. Initial preservation of the artefacts is taking place on-site as they are unearthed and the timbers kept moist to prevent further deterioration.
One must also say that the investigation of this site is at a very early stage and assumptions made now (and described above) may have to be revised in the light of the continuing excavations.
Northern Journeys: Medieval Anglo-Norwegian Trade, in Good Times and Bad (17th April 2018)
Dr. James Barrett, Reader in Medieval Archaeology and Leverhulme Major Research Fellow at Cambridge University.
The program of lectures for the next season can now be found under the 'Lectures' tab above.
Starting in May the society will be working with the council to deliver a programme of community archaeology in the Gaywood area. Let Clive know if and when you will be able to help in supporting local people explore the history of their area.
Special Public Lecture (with cheese and wine)
Dr Clive J Bond will be taking about Seahenge which was discovered ten years ago. The lecture is to raise money for the RNLI, and is at King's Lynn Town Hall on Friday, 27th April, at 6pm. Tickets are for sale at the Custom House, Lynn, or the RNLI Hunstanton shop, Old Hunstanton beach.
WNKLAS In The News
The society has been in the local Newspapers recently in coverage of the conference to celebrate our 50year anniversary and also the presentation to John Smallwood one of the founders.
Society Conference (25th November 2017)
Was held at Marriott's Warehouse Trust on Saturday 25th November. The subject was 'Women in the Archaeology and History of West Norfolk: Female Voices Across Time'.
King John's Treasure
The society's investigation of a local farm contributed to a programme made for US television as part of the Expidition Unknown series. This systematic survey of an area that was a likely route for the Royal Treasure was also the subject of a recent lecture evening.