RIVERSIDE REMAINS TO JOIN THE COLLECTION
Artefacts from one of the most important archaeological sites ever found in Lincolnshire will be displayed just months after being unearthed.
Bracelets and bones of people who lived on the banks of the River Witham, near Lincoln, are now being dug out of a site discovered late last year.
And they will soon take pride of place at The Collection, formerly known as the City and County Museum.
The Collection is due to open in May and will house a huge range of artefacts which are up to 300,000 years old. The Â£12.5 million museum, in Danesgate, has taken five years to create.
Late Bronze Age finds from the new dig, at Washingborough Fen, including a human skull, shale jewellery and evidence of metal working, will be housed and displayed there.
Work on the site began in the run-up to Christmas and it is expected to finish by the end of this week.
Artefacts discovered at the dig are of such archaeological importance that the stars of television’s Time Team, Phil Harding and Mick Aston, have filmed there.
The programme is due to be screened on Channel Four in the late spring.
Lincoln-based archaeology firm Preconstruct Archaeology (Lincoln) was called in to examine the site when May Gurney, the main contractor on the Environment Agency’s River Witham flood defence project, discovered some bones.
Preconstruct archaeologist Mark Allen said the finds were now being preserved, studied and catalogued.
“It looks like it is a very important site – an important trading place,” he said.
“It was possibly a market where people from all around the area would come, not only to trade livestock, but also to trade special things that they would not have been able to make themselves.
“We have found several shale bracelets and a lump of shale that’s been imported from elsewhere, maybe from Nottingham.
“There’s some stone that’s come from Cornwall which was probably used for pigment, and we have an amber bead from Europe.
“There’s certainly evidence of metal working on the site and we also have a fragment of a crucible.
“It’s probable that copper, bronze, and possibly gold and silver were used on the site.”
Mr Allen said that the site was also used as a meeting place for ceremonies, judging by the number of animal bones found and the thousands of shards of pottery found.
“We still have the human bone so there’s burial on the site,” he added.
“It’s a very significant site. We are arguing that we have separate people to the north and south of the river and this was a place where the two could meet.”
He said it was most likely a place for ritual feasting and commerce.
Environment Agency project team leader Andrew Usborne said that an excavation was carried out before work began because of the Witham Valley’s archaeological heritage.
When Mr Harding, who also revealed the name of the new museum, visited Washingborough Fen at the end of November he said he was impressed by the quality of preservation on the site. During the late Bronze Age the River Witham was 100 metres wide.
A well-preserved wooden platform was found buried beneath the mud and slime. This has inspired various theories, from it being used as anything from a jetty to a burial platform.
Friends of Lincoln Museums and Art Galleries chairman Tim Wheeldon said: “We fully support any local material going in to the new museum. These are important finds that are coming out of Washingborough.”
The museum will also house a collection of archaeological finds from Fiskerton, near Lincoln, dug up over the past 200 years. In 2001, jewellery and two boats from the Iron Age period were unearthed. The collection will include a section dedicated to finds showing the ancient history of the Witham Valley.
The people who lived along the valley built up important trade links with the rest of the British Isles, and Europe.
The Collection senior keeper of collections Thomas Cadbury said the archaeology of the Witham Valley was of international importance. “Our aim really is to try to put its importance across to the public and it’s really the museum’s job to make a song and dance about the finds.
“We now have a picture of how this valley must have been used by the people who lived there. For them, this valley was a place for trade and ceremonies and now we may be able to learn something about how these people saw the world around them.”