The discovery of the Bronze Age wheel will help scientists get a better idea of how our ancestors got around.
The wheel is the oldest, largest and most complete wheel ever found in Britain, according to Cambridge University. It reveals a number of intriguing facts about Bronze Age technology, writes Rossella Lorenzi for Discovery.
Amazingly well-preserved Bronze Age wheel dug up at site in Britain
Scientists say that the wooden wheel dates from 1100-800 BC, and was found at a dig site that has been described as Britain’s Pompeii. The site, which is found in the county of Cambridgeshire, was called home by a number of families who built their circular houses on stilts above a river.
A dramatic fire caused the inhabitants to flee around 3,000 years ago, and the buildings fell into the river where they were preserved by silt and clay. The wheel is among a number of items preserved by nature.
It measures around three feet in diameter and was found close to the remains of the largest house. Scientists say that is is very well-preserved and is constructed of five panels of solid timber fixed together, with a reinforced hub in the middle.
Archaeologists excited by find at fascinating site
The team of researchers were at first confused by the discovery, because the wheel was found in marshy land near a river on which people navigated using boats. In 2011 the team uncovered 8 canoes of different sizes at the site.
“The discovery of the wheel demonstrates that the inhabitants of this watery landscape had links to the dry land beyond the river,” David Gibson, Archaeological Manager at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Division of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, said in a statement.
Archaeologists are looking for clues about how our ancestors lived 3,000 years ago. The excavation has been running for two years, with another two left to go.
“Among the wealth of other fabulous artifacts and the new structural remains of round houses built over this river channel, this site continues to amaze and astonish us,” Kasia Gdaniec, senior archaeologist for Cambridgeshire County Council, said.
Dig set to continue for two more years
Other finds include exotic glass beads that formed part of a necklace. Scientists say that the necklace raised the possibility that the inhabitants possessed “a sophistication not usually associated with the British Bronze Age,” according to Cambridge Archaeological Unit.
“This wheel poses a challenge to our understanding of both Late Bronze Age technological skill and, together with the eight boats recovered from the same river in 2011, transportation,” Gdaniec said.
The $2 million dig is partly funded by Historic England, as well as landowner Forterra. Historic England called the find “unprecedented in terms of size and completeness.”
“This remarkable but fragile wooden wheel is the earliest complete example ever found in Britain,” Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson said. “The existence of this wheel expands our understanding of Late Bronze Age technology, and the level of sophistication of the lives of people living on the edge of the Fens 3,000 years ago.”
Interestingly the team found a neat round hole in the wheel, which they say was the work of a 20th century geologist who bored through it when taking a soil sample. The geologist evidently had no idea about the significant of the wood fragments that he found.
The archaeological community is excited by the possibility of further finds at the site, which has already turned over an impressive amount of artifacts.