Iron Age settlement found on mud flats

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE best-preserved Iron Age houses found in Britain have been discovered on tidal mud flats east of Newport, Gwent.

Archaeologists excavating a prehistoric site, surrounded by dangerous quicksands, have unearthed the remains of seven large rectangular houses, dating from the fourth century BC. The dig has also revealed a complex network of timber and brushwood walkways connecting some of the houses and linking the settlement to the sea-shore.

The archaeologists, directed by Dr Martin Bell, of St David's University College, Lampeter, Dyfed, suspect the houses were built by salmon fishermen operating in the Bristol Channel. Indeed, it is probable the site had a long seafaring tradition, for under the Iron Age settlement the excavation team found part of a Bronze Age boat built around 1100BC. Within the settlement, many of the timber floors are preserved, as are the lower parts of the timber and wattle walls and some of the doorposts.

So far, 65 square metres of wooden flooring have been located in three of the houses, along with hundreds of wall timbers and 160 metres of timber and brushwood trackways. The houses each measure seven metres by five and are located on what used to be a marshy island in the middle of a swamp.

The evidence suggests the prehistoric fishermen kept their homes immaculately clean. The only artefacts from their daily lives discovered so far are a fragment of a wooden bucket, a piece of wooden rope probably made of willow fibres, one piece of broken pottery, various unidentified timber objects, and lots of sheep and cattle bones outside the houses. The fishermen appear also to have kept cattle as the buildings are surrounded by thousands of ancient cattle hoof-prints.