|17 July 2007
Prehistoric site unearthed in Durham City
Water works have uncovered the most significant archaeological site of ancient Britons in County Durham (North East England) dating back 5,000 years. Northumbrian Water are building a new drinking water reservoir on the outskirts with views overlooking Durham City Cathedral and Castle. Before work began extensive archaeology investigations were undertaken. Experts from Tyne and Wear Museums found evidence of continuous settlement on the site from 3,000 BCE to 300 BCE. Pottery remains and flint knives and skin scrapers were unearthed. Digging also uncovered very well preserved timbers used to shore up ditches and shaped by Bronze Age tools and elsewhere traces of Iron Age fields were found.
Samples have been sent to specialists in Florida for carbon dating. Geophysical surveys using ultrasound on the ground and trenching began on site in 2003 but findings have been kept a closely guarded secret until now.
Dr Colin Price, Northumbrian Water's Technical Director, said: "We are proud to have played our part in finding and protecting this very significant archaeological site. The new reservoir is being built in the area chosen for the least impact and everything has been carefully documented." Steve Speak, Senior Keeper of Field Archaeology for Tyne and Wear Museums, said: "Trying to make sense of all the various dates from the same site is a bit of a puzzle – it seems the spot was reoccupied almost continuously throughout the prehistoric period. What isn't clear is what it was actually used for – it's not well enough preserved for us to say that it was a farmstead, a defensive site, a settlement or something more spiritual in nature. "It is the earliest site of its kind in Durham by a long way, and with material from 3,000 BCE it is the earliest settled site in the City."
Archaeologists will remain on the site until October. They hope there will be public access to the site and information displayed to explain its importance. Items unearthed will be offered to museums in the area.
Sources: The Northern Echo (10 July 2007), BDaily (12 July 2007)
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