|30 January 2000
Fire destroys unique archaeological records
Flag Fen, one of the world's most important archaeological sites, near Peterborough (Great Britain) was devastated by fire. The blaze destroyed the post-excavation building and damaged the education centre. It has also destroyed most of the site's vital research documents which chronicle one of Europe's most important Bronze Age excavations; fortunately, none of the finds have been touched by the fire.
Almost two decades of research work into the site has been destroyed after routine maintenance work accidentally set light to an empty mouse nest.
Staff members at the Flag Fen research centre are still too shocked to be able to evaluate the damage, but they say very little can be recovered. "The problem is that while some records have survived they're badly singed around the edges, and that's where the identifying marks and numbers were. So although some documents have survived the fire, most of them are now scientifically useless," said Toby Fox, Flag Fen's general manager.
The records were contained in fireproof cabinets, but the heat was so intense the cabinets burst open. Ironically all the records had been copied and the duplicates were kept in another building, but because of damp they had been temporarily moved back. As a result the only copies that remain are in published work by the centre's founder Dr Francis Pryor.
Photographs too were destroyed and the centre has issued an appeal for anyone who has copies of either written work or photographs to get in touch.
Flag Fen is also the home of the so-called Seahenge timber circle (see Archaeo News 3, 6, 7 and 11) recently recovered from a Norfolk beach, despite bitter opposition from some local people and some druids. Fortunately the Seahenge remains were kept in water tanks in another building some distance away and were not harmed.
It would have been an even bigger blow to the archaeologists if the fire had affected the Seahenge artefacts. One of the reasons they gave for moving the circle from its exposed site on a beach was that the circle was in danger of being destroyed.
Sources: Evening Telegraph (13 January, 2000), BBC News, Britarch Mailing List (14 January, 2000)
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