Pompeii, Italy is one of the most well-known and most-visited archaeological sites in the world, and with good reason. The entire town was almost instantly buried in ashes and lava from an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, and this disaster ended up creating an amazing snapshot in time of Roman village life for archaeologists to study almost 2000 years later.
Now archaeologists are saying they have found a similar remarkably preserved “Bronze Age Pompeii” in Peterborough, Britain.
New Details on Britain’s Bronze Age Pompeii
The ongoing excavation is being undertaken at a quarry close to Peterborough by Historic England and the University of Cambridge, and is offering scientists unexpected insights into domestic life in Britain three millennia ago.
Tentatively dated to the end of the Bronze Age (around 1200-800 BC), the Bronze Age Pompeii was home to several families who lived in round wooden houses on stilts above a river.
Based on their reconstruction, the team believes a fire destroyed the settlement, leading to the houses collapsing into the river, where they sank into silt and clay that largely preserved the houses and their contents.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Exec of Historic England, commented: “It’s a frozen moment in time. 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.”
The researchers say they feel like they found a time capsule buried only six feet below the ground, which is where the river bed was around 1000 BC. So far they have found various textiles, small cups, bowls and jars with traces of uneaten foods.
In some cases, even the footprints of the past inhabitants can be seen in the waterlogged sediments.
The team has also a number of glass beads, apparently used in an elaborate necklace, suggesting high degree of cultural sophistication.
Of interest, a forensic expert is being brought in to help find out the reason for the fire, which led to the collapse of the roof timbers, effectively sandwiching the household objects. Then the burning structures fell into the water, almost immediately putting out the fire. Over the years, a layer of mud and clay several meters deep sealed the remains until their recent discovery
Knight hazarded a guess that the fire might have been caused by a cooking accident, intentional destruction and abandonment of the site or possibly an attack from an enemy.
Statement from Peterborough site director
“It feels almost rude to be intruding,” noted site director, Mark Knight. “It doesn’t feel like archaeology any more, it feels like somebody’s house has burned down and we’re going in and picking over their goods.”
In describing the artifacts they’ve found at the Bronze Age Pompeii site, Knight pointed out that: “We’re used to finding a bit of pottery and trying to reconstruct a civilisation from that, but here we’ve got the lot. We should be able to find out what they wore, what they ate and how they cooked it, the table they ate off and the chairs they sat on.”
He continued to say that: “These people were rich, they wanted for absolutely nothing. The site is so rich in material goods we have to look now at other bronze age sites where very little was found, and ask if they were once equally rich but have been stripped.”