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10 October 2012
Bronze Age pathway found along London's railway

Remains of a Bronze Age pathway have been discovered in Plumstead (South London, England) as part of the construction of Crossrail, a major new railway.
     The find was made near the rail project's Plumstead tunnel, close to Belmarsh prison where archaeologists discovered Britain's oldest known timber structure back in 2009. This new find includes two wooden stakes cut by early London hunters with an axe, and which may have been used to build a timber pathway, along with a stone hammer tool.
     But the discovery is not a surprise, as the Crossrail line - which will eventually link Abbey Wood to central London - follows the same route as a 3,500-year-old transport network. Made up of timber pathways, archaeologists think the route would have allowed hunters easier access to rich wildlife that lived on the lush wetlands.
     Crossrail's lead archaeologist Jay Carver said: "This is a very significant find and the first Bronze Age find on the Crossrail project. We know from other sites nearby that this area was probably crisscrossed by a network of pathways. As excavation works for the Plumstead tunnel portal got underway our archaeologists uncovered several wooden stakes and at least two that appear to have cut marks from a metal axe."
     The stakes further suggest that they may have been used to build a timber route; timbers were commonly used in east London to construct pathways in that era. "A large network of timber pathways were constructed in the Bronze Age across east London. Archaeologists think that these would have allowed easier access for hunters to the rich wildlife that lived on the lush wetlands some 3,500 years ago," according to an official release by Crossrail.
     The wooden stakes are just a clue to a complete route, which has yet to be uncovered. Meanwhile archaeologist will continue excavation to find the full track way. "Although we haven't identified an actual track way yet, the timbers are similar to those used to make the track ways and certainly show that people were in the area exploiting the woodland. This is a promising find as we continue our search for evidence of a Bronze Age transport route along where London's newest railway will run," Carver concluded.
     Crossrail construction has already unearthed a number of other finds in the capital, including medieval human bones found at Liverpool Street and a piece of mammoth jaw bone. An exhibition of discoveries is running at the project's Tottenham Court Road victor centre this month. The Bronze Age finds are currently being analysed by the Museum of London Archaeology and will not form part of the archaeology exhibition. The exhibition will run throughout October at the Crossrail Tottenham Court Road Visitor Information Centre at 16-18 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LN.

Edited from This is Local London, IBTraveler, Archaeology News Network (8 October 2012)

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