Home » Expert archaeologists dub ‘UK’s Pompeii’ an ‘amazing time capsule’

Expert archaeologists dub ‘UK’s Pompeii’ an ‘amazing time capsule’

Bronze pots were found well preserved (Picture:PA/Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

People only lived in the ‘UK’s Pompeii’ for a year before it burned down, but the remaining artefacts are remarkably well preserved. 

A new study provided a greater insight into the lives of people who lived at what is now Must Farm in Peterborough over 3,000 years ago.

The village was made up of 10 circular wooden houses on stilts above a river, and could potentially have had 50 to 60 people living there, the researchers said. 

The cause of the fire in 850 BC is not known, but researchers at the University of Cambridge found a wealth of well-preserved items such as jewellery with imported beads, clothes of fine flax linen, and even a recycling bin for tools.

They also said the inhabitants lived a life of ‘cosy domesticity’ and dined on honey-glazed venison and meaty porridge. 

The researchers, from Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), excavated Must Farm nearly a decade ago and revealed what life would have been like for the inhabitants living in the village just as the Bronze Age was coming to a close.


Beautiful jewellery was among the finds (Picture: PA/Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

Must Farm’s thousands of artefacts also include a pottery bowl with the fingermarks of its creator imprinted in the clay that was found still holding its final meal.

Chemical analysis reveals traces of a wheat porridge mixed with animal fats – which the researchers say could be goat or red deer. 

They even found a broken wooden spatula used for stirring which was still resting against the inside of the bowl.

Project archaeologist Dr Chris Wakefield at CAU said: ‘The site is providing us with hints of recipes for Bronze Age breakfasts and roast dinners. 

‘Chemical analyses of the bowls and jars showed traces of honey along with ruminant meats such as deer, suggesting these ingredients were combined to create a form of prehistoric honey-glazed venison.

‘It appears the occupants saved their meat juices to use as toppings for porridge.’

The dig site (Picture: PA/Cambridge Archaeological Unit)

What is Must Farm?

  • Must Farm is a late Bronze Age settlement dating to around 850 BC at Whittlesey, near Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire. 
  • It’s been described as ‘Britain’s Pompeii’ due to its exceptional preservation
  • A range of items have been found at the farm, such as tools, ornaments and personal possessions
  • It was discovered in the late 1999s, but it wasn’t until 2015 that the Cambridge Archaeological Unit began a dig at the site
  • Researchers are unsure why the village burned down, but say it may have come under attack as the inhabitants left their goods

Dr Wakefield said the site was ‘an amazing time capsule’, as it provides a unique indicator for the villages, home interiors and overall domesticity of those who lived in the area some eight centuries before Romans set foot on British shores.

Environmental analysis shows vegetation in the river helped to cushion the material falling from the structures, preventing damage.

The items landed directly beneath where they had been stored in the houses, which gave archaeologists a direct insight into how the roundhouses were used.

A combination of charring and waterlogging caused thousands of objects to survive, including almost 200 wooden artefacts, more than 150 fibre and textile items, 128 pottery vessels and some 90 pieces of metalwork.

Some of the objects from the dig will be displayed in an exhibition at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery from April 27.

The new study is published in two volumes part I and part II, both available online. 

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