Archaeological experts from Britannia Archaeology have uncovered a treasure trove of history during a year-long excavation near Ely, Cambridgeshire, UK. Initially, this excavation was expected to be a short-term project but instead revealed evidence of human occupation spanning thousands of years.
One of the most extraordinary finds at the site is an almost entirely intact 35cm-high late Neolithic or early Bronze Age urn, dating back approximately 4,000 years.
“Normally we find fragments of pots which are a bit smashed and broken. We don’t usually get a whole vessel that’s 95% complete and still standing,” Project officer Alice Schute told the BBC.
The excavation, located on land slated for housing development by Orbit Homes, began in October and has far surpassed expectations. Not only did archaeologists uncover this pristine Bronze Age urn, but they also revealed a previously unknown Saxon village, complete with a “substantial hall.” This Saxon settlement is believed to be part of a much larger community.
What sets this village apart are its sunken feature buildings, similar to those found at West Stow in Suffolk. These unique structures, which are rarely encountered, are built into the ground rather than above it. Some of these sunken buildings were found to be buried up to 80cm (31in) underground..
Furthermore, the excavation uncovered evidence of industrial use, such as loom weights, spindle whorls, needles, and minuscule beads, offering glimpses into ancient craftsmanship.
“You think, ‘somebody last touched this thousands of years ago,’ yet some of these artifacts look like they could have been created yesterday,” Schute marveled.
Importantly, the findings indicate continuous human presence at the site, from the Bronze Age through the Roman period, followed by abandonment until the construction of a village in the 4th or 5th century CE.
Beyond the immediate archaeological importance, the excavation has broader implications. As Martin Brook, Britannia Archaeology director, notes, “The site’s important to local history, but it has a much wider significance – nobody knew it was here.” The unexpected discoveries have turned a spotlight on a previously overlooked historical treasure.
The project has garnered attention from both the local community and officials. Local residents had the opportunity to view the historical artifacts, some dating back over 4,000 years. The artifacts included not only those from the Bronze Age but also items from the Iron Age.
1 of 5
Ray Winney, Regional Managing Director at Orbit Homes, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, saying, “The number of finds at Chewells Lane has been truly extraordinary. It’s been an incredible experience for the whole team to watch the archaeologists undertake excavation of the site and see the number of artefacts which have been uncovered, many in an unprecedented condition.”
Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, visited the site, echoing the sentiment of many: “It is an extraordinary feat to discover archaeological evidence here in East Cambridgeshire that dates back as far back as the Bronze Age, approximately 4000 years ago.” She emphasized the importance of preserving these artifacts to honor the region’s rich history.
The archaeological investigations, carried out by Britannia Archaeology Ltd., began in October 2022 and are expected to conclude in late Autumn 2023. The artifacts unearthed during this project will undergo further analysis and preservation before being deposited with a suitable archive or museum.
(This article is based on reports from BBC News and Orbit Homes.)