Archaeologists have uncovered what is believed to be the largest and best-preserved Bronze Age wooden wheel ever found in the U.K., at a site that has been described as “Britain’s Pompeii." The astonishing new find has been revealed not long after the team excavating the site in the soggy fens of Cambridgeshire announced that they had found some of the most perfectly preserved Bronze Age houses, thought to date to around 3,000 years old.
The wheel is amazing in its preservation, measures 1 meter (3 feet) in diameter, and even still contains its hub at the center. It is thought to date to between 1,100 and 800 BCE, and was found close to one of the largest round houses. The discovery of the wheel asks far more questions than it answers, not least what the people living in a boggy marsh were doing with a wheel that is suspected to be from a cart – backed up by evidence of horse remains found at the site.
Detail of the 3,000-year-old wheel with the hub still intact. Joe Giddens/PA
“The houses are built over a river and within those deposits is sitting a wheel – which is pretty much the archetype of what you'd expect to have on dry land – so it's very, very unusual,” archaeologist Chris Wakefield, who is from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit that's undertaking the excavations, told the BBC. Interestingly, this feeds into the suggestion that despite living in the marshes, they weren’t living off them. The researchers have found evidence that the inhabitants were eating mainly venison, lamb, beef and pork, and consuming very little fish or wild duck as you might expect.
Shown is the site of the excavation. Cambridge Archaeological Unit
So far, the team have found three round houses at the site, which used to be situated on wooden platforms in the middle of the watery marshes. When a fire took hold, the dwellings were abandoned, along with all the objects within. Eventually, the houses collapsed into the water below and were covered by silty clay, perfectly preserving not only the floor timbers, the willow walls and thatch roof, but the pots, knives, textiles, jewelry and remains of the animals they were eating along with it.
Despite claims to the contrary, this is not the oldest wheel ever found in Britain. But it's still a hugely impressive discovery.