| 3 October 2009
Mesolithic village found off the coast of the Isle of Wight
A Stone Age settlement under The Solent - the stretch of sea separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England - is in danger of being lost forever. In a desperate race against time, marine archaeologists say the remains of a submerged mesolithic community found at Bouldnor Cliff, off Yarmouth, could be lost to the sea if money is not found soon to continue vital excavation work.
Archaeologists have found 24 timber pieces of all shapes and sizes intersecting throughout the underwater cliff off Bouldnor. They are convinced the timber is evidence of a huge wooden structure built about 8,000 years ago by ancient Mesolithic people. Hundreds of ancient artefacts, including flint, charcoal, string, hazelnuts and the remains of a log boat, have been retrieved from the site since excavations began in 1998.
Garry Momber, director of The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology, has been excavating the site for more than a decade and believes the latest finds this summer are the most significant to date. "This is more comprehensive than anything I thought we would ever find and I'm sure there is a lot more to be uncovered," he said. "Each piece of timber has very clear and distinct cut marks, so we know they have been worked on," Mr Momber added. "It's an elaborate framework and the timber appears to be linked. It could be a collapsed structure, or perhaps a platform built close to the waterway. This really pushes forward our understanding of the area because it shows they were well established and capable of craftsmanship. Additional finds, including charcoal and burnt flints, suggest this site could be one of the oldest boat-building sites in the world."
Mr Momber said this summer's three-day dive cost £3,600, a sum covered by donations and grants. "But as the erosion steadily sweeps away the site, it is a race against time before the ancient artefacts are lost to Mother Nature," he said. "We are appealing to local and national businesses to support the trust so that it can launch a rescue excavation next year."
The underwater site is the only one yet discovered in Britain and dates from when the sea level was 12 metres lower than today, when the Isle of Wight would have been much larger and The Solent was a dry coastal valley. Mr Momber said the latest discovery could help rewrite the history books as it was further proof the inhabitants were well established on the banks of The Solent.
Sources: Hampshire Chronicle (27 September 2009), Isle of Wight County Press (30 September 2009)
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