Britain’s “Pompeii” has emerged in the UK county of Cambridgeshire as archaeologists unearthed incredibly well-preserved Bronze Age dwellings abandoned in haste by their inhabitants.
The excavation, carried out at a quarry in Peterborough by Historic England and the University of Cambridge, provides an extraordinary insight into domestic life 3,000 years ago.
Dating to the end of the Bronze Age (1200-800 BC), the settlement was home to several families who lived in a number of circular wooden houses built on stilts above a river.
A fire destroyed the settlement causing the houses to fall into the river, where silt and clay preserved the contents.
“It’s a frozen moment in time,” Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said.
“We are learning more about the food our ancestors ate, and the pottery they used to cook and serve it … This site is of international significance and its excavation really will transform our understanding of the period,” he added.
Archaeologists found an extraordinary time capsule buried just over six feet below the ground surface, where the river bed actually was in 1000-800 BC. It contained textiles, small cups, bowls and jars complete with past meals still inside.
Such is the level of preservation that the footprints of those living there are still visible in the waterlogged sediments.
The archaeologists also found exotic glass beads that were part of an elaborate necklace, suggesting “a sophistication not usually associated with the British Bronze Age,” Cambridge Archaeological Unit said in a statement.
The way the objects were found indicate people were forced to leave everything behind when fire caught on the houses. It is not known yet whether it was an accident or fire was set deliberately by hostile forces.
The archaeologists expect to find much more as the excavation, which is now half way through the four-year project, continues over the coming months.
“Usually at a Later Bronze Age period site you get pits, post-holes and maybe one or two really exciting metal finds,” David Gibson, archaeological manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, said.
“But this time so much more has been preserved – we can actually see everyday life during the Bronze Age in the round. It’s prehistoric archaeology in 3D with an unsurpassed finds assemblage both in terms of range and quantity,” he added.