1220 GMT February 17, 2020
Network Archeology had a rare chance to explore the hidden history of the land around the River Witham in the county of Lincolnshire, east of England, stretching back thousands of years, during digs from 2016 to 2018, lincolnshirelive.co.uk reported.
The remains of more than 700 humans buried 1200 years ago, a Bronze Age boat dug from a tree trunk and 150,000 flints from a pre-historic hunter-gatherer settlement are among the amazing discoveries, many of which are of UK national significance.
Archeologists are building a picture of life, death, worship in this part of Lincolnshire since the days to the earliest residents and there is much more research to be done.
Here, Dr. Peter Townend, project and geomatics officer at Network Archeology, explained why the finds are so important.
"Following successful completion during 2016-2018 of the archeological fieldwork along the route of the Lincoln Eastern Bypass, Network Archeology commenced work in late 2018 on the post-excavation phase of the project.
"This is split into two key stages, the first being an assessment of all the finds and information recovered from the excavations.
"The second stage is a detailed analysis of the results of the assessment, followed by publication and dissemination.
"This post-excavation work will be a five-year program and is being funded by Lincolnshire County Council.
"The archeology discovered along the route includes a wide range of periods, encompassing 400,000 years of human history.
"Fieldwork identified extensive Mesolithic hunter-gatherer settlement beside the River Witham, with over 150,000 flints recovered.
"A nationally important Neolithic/Bronze Age ceremonial landscape, comprising eight circular funerary monuments and over fifty human cremations.
"A large number of prehistoric timbers were identified within a complex sequence of peat infilled river channels, the most significant of these being a late Bronze-Age log boat.
"Later discoveries included a Roman villa and possible shrine, as well as a rich agricultural landscape, which can help to tell the story of the hinterland of Roman Lincoln.
"The remains of 830 individuals were excavated from along the route of the road scheme: More than 700 from a cemetery dating to the early 800s BC, in the Middle Saxon period.
"This nationally significant find is the largest Saxon inhumation cemetery to be excavated in modern times.
"The site was gifted to Cistercian Monks in the twelfth century and became a grange or farm.
"Investigation of the grange buildings and the surrounding landscape provides a rare snapshot into a traditionally understudied area of medieval Lincolnshire.
"The first stage of post-excavation assessment is well underway and includes two key components. Firstly, an examination of the dataset relating to the archeological structures and deposits investigated and recorded, and secondly a study of the artefacts recovered.
"Network Archeology has a dedicated team of in-house archeologists working full-time on the project, collating and assessing the data with the goal of determining the age and function of the archaeology excavated during the fieldwork.
"At the same time, they have engaged over twenty nationally recognized experts, each one a specialist in a particular type or period of artefact, to examine, catalogue and date each individual find from the excavations.
"The work of the in-house team, and the artefact specialists, will be to judge the potential importance of the material studied and to produce a series of recommendations for further study of the artefacts and records, forming the basis of the analysis phase of the project.
"Because of the size of the collections and their significance to our understanding of the archeology of the region, it is anticipated that the assessment will carry on until 2021, with a report released shortly after.
"Interim results from these specialists have provided a number of tantalizing glimpses. The prehistoric pottery from the site is the largest assemblage ever found in Lincolnshire and includes wares that have never been seen before in the British Isles.
"The Saxon cemetery is the largest to have been excavated in England, using modern archeological techniques, and is providing abundant evidence of the health and lifestyles of the Lincolnshire population around 1100 years ago.
"Study of the archeological records suggest that ritual or religious use of the Witham Valley stretches back as far as the Neolithic period (6500 to 4400 years ago).
"The question is now, what kept people coming back to the valley for thousands of years? Answers may be found in the study of environmental samples taken during the project, telling the story of the flora and fauna that inhabited the area.
"The mapping of woodland and the old route of the Witham could provide a clue to the focus of activity in the prehistoric period.
"Finally, preliminary analysis has suggested that a copper axe and two of the burials have been dated to the Chalcolithic or ‘Copper Age’.
"This is of particular significance as, unlike in comparison with the European mainland, the Chalcolithic is a period that is generally underrepresented in Britain.
"As more data is received from the specialists, it is combined with the information collected on site and fed into the assessment report.
"The recommendations provided within the assessment stage will dictate the focus and the scale of the analysis.
"The analysis will dig deeper into the data, combining key artefactual, environmental and contextual information providing a wider picture of the landscape in different periods.
"Some finds may be sent back to specialists for further study and research will be carried out to place them within a wider local, national and sometimes international context.
"This will help establish the patterns of occupation across the Witham Valley and Lincolnshire, eventually resulting in a series of publications, traditional hardcopy and online, available to the public.
"Although the post-excavation work has yet to be completed, a wide-ranging and ongoing program of outreach has given the Lincolnshire community numerous opportunities to see the incredible results from the Bypass archaeological excavations.
"Throughout the fieldwork, this included regular museum displays (at The Collection in Lincoln) and weekly updates to local newspapers and newsletters.
"Network Archaeology (funded by Lincolnshire County Council), arranged a number of open days and events, attended by over 2000 people. Members of the public could view the finds, tour the archeology and ask questions of the archeologists working on the bypass.
"Throughout the project Network Archeology staff have been disseminating information at academic conferences and public lecturers to inform the local community of the work being carried out on the bypass.
"These lectures have continued after the fieldwork and will carry on until the end of the post-excavation process.
"Following the completion of the analysis, the finds and records will be returned to Lincolnshire County Council, to be curated by the Lincolnshire Museum Service."