Archaeologists discover that Must Farm Bronze Age settlement, dubbed the Pompeii of Britain, was burned to the ground soon after it was built.
The site – a farming settlement built on piles in a wetland (fen), most likely for defensive purposes – continues to yield tremendous insights into the material culture of the period. This, despite the shortness of its habitation: apparently only about a year passed between its completion, and its destruction by fire. Of course, that very fact makes it a valuable snapshot of a particular moment in British prehistory!
“The press release for the article in Antiquity states that the fire was ‘A tragedy for the inhabitants, but lucky for archaeologists, as the fluvial silts have preserved wooden artefacts, pottery sets, bronze tools and weapons, fabrics and fibres , querns, loom weights, spindle whorls, animal remains, plants and seeds, coprolites…'”
It appears that between 50 and 80 people may have lived at the settlement – suggestive of a small tribe, or perhaps a large extended family (such distinctions can be blurry, at best). “Tools, housing, and even vitrified food have all been impeccably preserved at the waterlogged site.” Lead archaeologist of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Mark Knight, comments,
“Working at the site was a series of daily, almost hourly moments of astonishment and wonder (with each new discovery seemingly outshining the last). This was invariably accompanied by a faint rotten-egg smell that goes with most waterlogged sites – the smell of gradual organic decay.”
Enough to make me wish I had stuck with archaeology! Although the chances of being able to work on this site would have been slight, even if I had. Alas! For more, check out these links: