Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

London's Earliest Timber Structure Found During Belmarsh Prison Dig

Date:
August 14, 2009
Source:
University College London
Summary:
London's oldest timber structure has been unearthed by archaeologists. It was found during the excavation of a prehistoric peat bog adjacent to Belmarsh Prison in Plumstead, Greenwich, in advance of the construction of a new prison building. Radiocarbon dating has shown the structure to be nearly 6,000 years old and it predates Stonehenge by more than 500 years.

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 meters of peat adjacent to an ancient river channel.
Credit: UCL

London's oldest timber structure has been unearthed by archaeologists from Archaeology South-East (part of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London). It was found during the excavation of a prehistoric peat bog adjacent to Belmarsh Prison in Plumstead, Greenwich, in advance of the construction of a new prison building. Radiocarbon dating has shown the structure to be nearly 6,000 years old and it predates Stonehenge by more than 500 years.

Jacobs Engineering UK Ltd acted as the managing consultants, on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, and the work was facilitated by Interserve Project Services Ltd.

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 (image available). Previously, the oldest timber structure in Greater London was the timber trackway in Silvertown, which has been dated to 3340-2910 BC, c. 700 years younger.

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.

English Heritage, the government's advisor on the historic environment, provides planning advice in respect of archaeology within Greater London and was involved in the discovery at the Plumstead site.

Mark Stevenson, Archaeological Advisor at English Heritage said: "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.

"This large area of development has been the subject of extensive building recording of the old Royal Arsenal (East) site as well as detailed work to map the buried ancient landscape."

Archaeology South-East Senior Archaeologist Diccon Hart, who directed the excavation, commented: "The discovery of the earliest timber structure yet found in the London Basin is an incredibly exciting find. It is testament to the hard work and determination of those who toiled under very difficult conditions to unearth a rare and fascinating structure almost 6,000 years after it was constructed."

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. 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 (image available).

The study of the samples will continue for the next couple of years as the archaeological team learns more about this intriguing structure and the environment in which it was built.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University College London. "London's Earliest Timber Structure Found During Belmarsh Prison Dig." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812104141.htm>.
University College London. (2009, August 14). London's Earliest Timber Structure Found During Belmarsh Prison Dig. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812104141.htm
University College London. "London's Earliest Timber Structure Found During Belmarsh Prison Dig." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812104141.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Did Neanderthals Play Tic-Tac-Toe?

Did Neanderthals Play Tic-Tac-Toe?

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — Artwork found in a Gibraltar cave that was possibly done by Neanderthals suggests they may have been smarter than we all thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Millions Of Historical Public Domain Photos Added To Flickr

Millions Of Historical Public Domain Photos Added To Flickr

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Historian Kalev Leetaru uploaded a large collection of historical photos, images that were previously difficult to collect. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — An international team uncovered a large ancient wine celler that likely belonged to a Cannonite ruler. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins