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30 March 2009
Large prehistoric roundhouse unearthed in Somerset

Excavation of a proposed park-and-ride site in Taunton (Somerset, England) has revealed a possible Bronze Age sauna and one of the largest prehistoric roundhouses in Britain. The house dates from the Iron Age (400-100 BCE) and was constructed from wooden posts with a thatched roof and had a diameter of 17m (56ft). A mound of burned stones indicating a 2,500-year-old sauna has also been discovered as well as the remains of a Roman farm. The finds unearthed from the Cambria Farm site since December 2008 are to be displayed by the Museum of Somerset.
     Archaeologists have spent more than three months on site. The first finds were unearthed in December last year, when evidence of Bronze Age fields were exposed. Other finds have included a pair of Roman shears, three Iron Age spearheads, loom weights and roman brooches as well as large amounts of pottery. Experts said there were originally four houses on the site that were next to fields where mixed agriculture of cereal crop and sheep farming were practised. It appears that after the roundhouses went out of use, the site was used to bury the dead. A number of Roman graves have been excavated including some very unusual burials.
     Steven Membury, historic environment officer at Somerset County Council, said: "We think the site began about 2,500 BC with ritual use around a spring where the burned stones were found. The idea that the stone indicate 'sweat houses' is just one theory. We can tell that the huge roundhouse burned down but we think we have one surviving post which we will be able to carbon date. Another of the roundhouses dates from around 400-100 BCE, and we have found Glastonbury ware pottery inside."

Sources: BBC News (23 March 2009), Telegraph.co.uk, Western Daily Press, 24Dash.com (24 March 2009)

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