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Must Farm Palaeochannel Investigations 2009-2012. Post-excavation Assessment.

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Robinson Zeki, Iona  ORCID logo
Knight, Mark 
Murrell, Kerry 


Between 2009 and 2012, three phases of archaeological investigation of the roddon and freshwater palaeochannel at Must Farm, Whittlesey (TL 2330 9675) were undertaken by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) on behalf of SLR consulting Ltd. for Hanson UK in advance of Oxford Clay extraction. The three phases were contiguous and combined to form an area of 15680m2, encompassing 324m of the meandering course of the palaeochannel. The 2009–2012 excavation area was located c. 150m upstream of the Late Bronze Age timber platform site excavated by the CAU in 2006. The palaeochannel investigations are a component of the ongoing archaeological and palaeoenvironmental investigations of the wider Must Farm landscape. The excavations revealed the richness of the archaeological material preserved in the freshwater channel, including, most notably, a nationally-significant group of nine exceptionally well-preserved prehistoric logboats. This Post-excavation Assessment presents a highly detailed description and evaluation of the stratigraphic, structural, material and environmental remains excavated during the three phases of investigation of the palaeochannel. It presents the results of preliminary palaeoenvironmental analysis, which indicates that the freshwater channel was a small and very slow-flowing river, with a succession-dominated fluvial dynamic that resulted in the incremental silting of the watercourse and therefore also a stratigraphically sequential deposit history. The deposit history spans the Middle Bronze Age to the Late Iron Age – the earliest channel silts formed around 1600 BC, while blanket peat formation, which sealed the silted-up channel, commenced in the 1st century AD. The report presents the categories of archaeological material encountered in the channel in relation to the channel’s deposit history, analysing the distribution of waterlogged wood, animal bone, metalwork, human bone, pottery, burnt stone, worked bone and worked flint. Foremost among this assemblage are the nine logboats, as well as ten hurdle fish weirs and 24 fish traps. Metalwork deposits in the channel included Bronze Age weaponry and Iron Age swords and ornaments. The contextual settings of these three major groups of archaeological evidence were considered in relationship to each other and the specific channel environment, while their significance in relation to the regional and national discourse on Bronze and Iron Age activity on rivers and in wetlands was also recognised.



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Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

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