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22 July 2006
Suffolk timbers could be 4,000 year old causeway

Timbers unearthed during flood defence work on the Norfolk-Suffolk border (England) have been dated to between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, archaeologists have revealed. The very well preserved finds are the first of their kind in the region – it is thought they may have belonged to a walkway across the marshland in the Iron Age. "This is the first such structure to have been discovered within Suffolk and is one of only a few in Britain," said Jane Sidell, English Heritage Archaeological Science Advisor.
     The timbers were found on the banks of the River Waveney, and have been remarkably well preserved with chiselled points intact. Clearly sculpted by hand, the vertical posts were uncovered during the excavation of a new dyke on Beccles Town marshes. A full-scale archaeological investigation will be carried out over the next few weeks.
     On finding the posts, contractors for Broadland Environmental Services Limited (BESL) contacted Suffolk County Council Archaeological Field Services, who identified the timbers as relating to an ancient structure, possibly a causeway. Some pottery remains were also uncovered, mainly from the Roman period. "I think the machine driver thought they were [modern] fenceposts" said William Fletcher, Historic Environments Advisor at the county council. "Since then we’ve had an estimation of a Bronze Age date from the distinctive tool marks, and two radiocarbon dates of other timbers that give a likely Iron Age and Roman date. We don't really know what the timbers would have been for, but one possibility is that they could have been used as some kind of boundary marker. They are 3,000 to 4,000 years old. Another possibility is that it was a walkway or causeway used to get people out across the marshes. Before the area was drained, it would have been very marshy and this could have been a way of getting out over the marshes to the river," he added.
     Heeding advice from English Heritage and Suffolk County Council, BESL roped off the site and has commissioned a dig to see what else can be found at the potentially significant site. It was feared that where the ground had been disturbed, the remaining timbers would begin to rot. "It gives us an excellent opportunity to examine ancient, possibly ritual, use of the marshland," said Jane Sidell of the project, "and how the marshes have been developed over time."
     The excavation, which will last up to three weeks, is to be carried out by archaeologists from the county council and the University of Birmingham. The nature of the remains suggest that there was more than one phase of activity in the area, so finds are likely to be Bronze and Iron Age as well as Roman.

Source: Caroline Lewis for 24 Hour Museum, Beccles & Bungay Journal (20 July 2006)

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