A bronze age wheel, dating back nearly 3,000 years, has been unearthed at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire, England, or as it’s called, “British Pompeii.” Archeologist Chris Wakefield tells BBC he acknowledges the bronze age wheel find is very unusual, especially for its location.
“We’re in the middle of the fens, a very wet environment. The biggest question we’ve got to answer at the moment is, why on Earth is there a wheel in the middle of this very wet river channel?”
Wakefield raises a great point. If wheels are known for being used on dry land, why is there a random wheel in the middle of a river? Scientists have yet to answer this question, and they rightfully don’t want to offer up too many assumptions.
While this wheel is considered to be the largest (three-feet in circumference), and the “best preserved” bronze age artifact, it is not the oldest that has been found in that area. A smaller, half-wheel was discovered by the Flag Fens in Peterborough, England.
A settlement of round homes has also been found in the same Must Farm location as the recently discovered wheel. This settlement has provided tangible information as to the former inhabitants experience on dry land, and living within the watery environment of the Fens.
David Gibson, the head archaeologist leading the excavation states this area has been a “treasure trove” of findings and information that showcase the level of advancement and skill during the bronze age era in Britain.
To understand where this wheel comes from, it is important to understand the bronze age and how it swept across Europe. Ancient.eu gives a really in-depth look at the growing society present at the time. The bronze age is the connection between the stone Age, and the iron Age. The bronze age is a term used to classify an era of thriving prehistoric communities that expanded upon metal work with bronze. Bronze was in widespread use for weaponry, currency, and trading. The bronze age is also noted to be the era where humans began to keep extensive records detailing their work and daily life.
The bronze age begins at different times depending on the location in Europe. In the Mediterranean, the bronze age began in 3000 B.C.E. Scientists were able to assess that intricate and far-reaching sea trade routes were established. The most important aspect of the developing bronze age is the creation of bronze. This new trade network imported tin, charcoal, and other materials to Cyprus where bronze was formed and produced. In central Europe, the bronze age flourished from 1800 to 450 B.C.E. During this time, the art of forming bronze had been perfected, and various cultures created burying rituals. Each ritual was specific to the culture at that time (Unetice, Straubing, Adlerberg). Scientists observed the dead had their graves dressed with gifts that were crafted in gold. If cremation was the ritual, bronze urns would be found.
“British Pompeii” also plays a major role here. According to the Guardian, “British Pompeii” is a deceptive name for this area, as this ancient city is not of Roman origin, but belongs to the bronze age. This town offers copious amounts of information on the skill set and technology of that time.
Archaeologists are very excited as pots, pans, glass, fabrics, and textiles have been unearthed. This discovery gives scientists an edge in unraveling some of the mysteries of the bronze age.
Unfortunately, you won’t find any Roman ruins in this area, probably because Rome’s time in Britain was short-lived. Once the Romans left, the native occupiers left shortly after, which left British Pompeii abandoned. A period of the bronze age is missing due to this abandonment. It was not until the time of Alfred The Great that London became an active city again.
[Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images]