London’s oldest timber structure predates Stonehenge by more than 500 years

August 13th, 2009 - 1:03 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, August 13 (ANI): A team of archaeologists has unearthed London’s oldest timber structure, which through radiocarbon dating has been proven to be nearly 6,000 years old, predating Stonehenge by more than 500 years.

The structure was discovered by archaeologists from Archaeology South-East (part of the Institute of Archaeology at UCL).

The structure consisted of a timber platform or trackway found at a depth of 4.7m (about the height of a double decker bus) beneath two metres of peat adjacent to an ancient river channel.

Previously, the oldest timber structure in Greater London was the timber trackway in Silvertown, which has been dated to 3340-2910 BC.

Wetlands adjacent to rivers such as the Thames were an important source of food for prehistoric people, and timber trackways and platforms made it easier to cross the boggy terrain.

The structure discovered at Plumstead is an early example of people adapting the natural landscape to meet human needs.

The peat bogs, which developed at Plumstead, provided ideal conditions to preserve organic materials, which in other environments would have rotted away.

The peat not only preserved wood, but also other plant matter - down to microscopic pollen grains - which can inform us about the contemporary landscape.

According to Mark Stevenson, Archaeological Advisor at English Heritage, “The discovery of the earliest timber structure in London is incredibly important.”

“The timber structure is slightly earlier in date than the earliest trackways excavated in the Somerset Levels, including the famous ‘Sweet Track’ to Glastonbury, which provide some of the earliest physical evidence for woodworking in England,” he said.

This item has been laser scanned at UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geometric Engineering and is currently undergoing conservation treatment prior to its display in Greenwich Heritage Centre, Woolwich.

Other notable finds from the archaeological excavation include an Early Bronze Age alder log with unusually well-preserved tool marks made by a metal axe. (ANI)

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