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8 July 2006
Iron Age Farm found under Somerset cattle market

Archaeologists have discovered a prehistoric farm in Somerset (England), under the site of a new dairy and cattle market. The farm, which included two houses, compounds and fields, dates back 2,500 years to the Iron Age. Excavations were carried out in advance of building work on a new agricultural centre, close to the village of Huntworth. The month-long excavation by Wessex Archaeology was completed at the end of June 2006.
     "This is an important find for the history of Somerset," said Steve Membury of Somerset County Councilís archaeology team. "It shows just how important it is to check sites before new developments," he said. "The first clue about the site came from aerial photographs. A geophysical survey and trial trenches helped us decide where excavations were needed."
     Iron Age pottery was found in subsequent digs, as well as a fragment of a baked clay weight, probably from a loom. A replica of such a loom can be seen at the Peat Moors Centre, Westhay. The Peat Moors Centre, not far from the site, also has reconstructed Iron Age houses that give a good impression of what those at the farm might have looked like. They are round, with conical thatched roofs and large porches. "Somerset has some well-preserved Iron Age hillforts and the famous Glastonbury Lake Village, but only two farms have been excavated before," said archaeologist Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick. "One was at Christon, near Winscombe. It was found in 1970 as the M5 was being built."
     Somerset boasts the largest Iron Age hillfort in Britain at Ham Hill, near Montacute. Glastonbury Lake Village was built on an artificial island in a swamp and was only accessible by boat. The village, eventually abandoned due to rising water levels, has been well preserved because of waterlogging. Another Iron Age farm was excavated by Wessex Archaeology at Canards Grave, Shepton Mallet, where the remains of four circular houses were found.

Source: Caroline Lewis for 24 Hour Museum (7 July 2006)

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