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Historic England Research Records

Flag Fen

Hob Uid: 871837
Location :
City Of Peterborough
City Of Peterborough
Stanground North
Grid Ref : TL2271498911
Summary : Flag Fen is the site of a major Bronze Age wetland site. The site comprises a raised timber walkway of 1km long leading to a platform of around 3.5 acres in area. Associated with the post alignment are discrete deposits of ceramics and metalwork that shows evidence of deliberate damage, indicating ritual use of the site. Some artefacts may have been made specifically for water deposition whereas other examples, especially of pottery, appear to be genereal domestic wares. There is some suspicion that some of the metal artefacts date to the Iron Age and are associated with later relationships between the site and people from the surrounding area. The platform has been radiocarbon dated to between 1000 and 660BC, within the Late Bronze Age. The post alignment has been assigned a date of use from between 1300 and 900 BC from dendrochronology which would suggest that it is slightly earlier than the platform, although there is some overlap in the date ranges.Nearby are the remains of Early Bronze Age field systems which went out of use in the early first millenium BC, around the same time as the construction of the platform. It is thought that the field systems are indicative of a settlement on the edge of the fen, also inferred by faunal remains and the domestic pottery finds.The site is now operated as an open air museum with a visitor centre.
More information : TL 227989. The site at Flag Fen consists of an alignment of wooden posts about a kilometre in length and a wooden platform of approximately 1.4ha (3.5 acres). The post alignment extends from the very gently sloping dry land landscape of Fengate settlement (TL 29 NW 2) to the slightly steeper dry land of Northey 'island'. The platform sits on the post alignment closer to Northey than Fengate. The main period of construction (and use) of both platform and post alignment was the late Bronze Age, but there was also significant and associated activity before and after that period. The 'Flag Fen' site consists of three areas which have been excavated; Flag Fen itself from 1982, the Cat's Water sub site,1990, and the Power station site ,1989. The platform was built from the end of the Middle Bronze Age and appears to be contemporary with the post alignment. A radiocarbon date of 880 + or -120bc has been obtained for the platform. To date, five 'episodes' of build can be demonstrated. However Flag Fen does not appear to have been a settlement site in the conventional sense owing to the absence of definite domestic occupation layers and hearths. The site appears to have had a defensive and ritual role in the landscape. The large quantity of metalwork found would support a ritual interpretation.

Bronze, Iron, Tin, Lead and one gold object were found which showed signs of deliberate damage. Swords, Tongue chapes, daggers, pins, fibulae and a spearhead were found dating from the 12th to 5th centuries BC. Most objects seem to have been thrown into the water during some form of religious observances. Some objects, however, may have been buried in shallow scoops. At least two objects were found deliberately concealed beneath horizontal timbers on the platform. One was a complete pottery jar, the second a pegged and socketed bronze spearhead. It is further possible that many of the items were made specifically for deposition in the water- items such as miniature swords and two very small dirks. The author at present provides the following interpretation for the site'.

Gradually rising ground water levels during the 2nd and early 1st millenia BC gave rise to social and economic tensions that led to the construction of the post alignment and platform. Thus the two were to form part of a kilometre long barrier that isolated the landscape of the Fengate/Northey embayment from the open fen to the north and east. (1)

Aditional references (2-9)

During the Fengate Project of 1971-8, a ditched field system of Bronze Age date was recorded on the dry land of Fengate on the western side of the Flag Fen Basin. Subsequent research at Northey, on the eastern side of the Basin, has revealed a similar field system, although this has yet to be investigated in detail. Both areas of fields were defined by ditches and banks upon which hedges were probably planted. The fields were grouped into larger holdings by parallel-ditched droveways that ran, at right angles, down to the wetland edge.

The field system was created in the Early Bronze Age and went out of use in the early first millenium BCE. New evidence suggets that the system was laid out in two phases, the central and northern elements being laid out 4-5 centuries before the southern element. The latter continued in use for a similar period, after the abandonment of the rest of the system. The fields were laid out for the management of large numbers of livestock. principally sheep and cattle.

At Newark Road and Fourth Drove, the heart of the Fengate Bronze Age field system was laid out in a complex pattern of droveways, yards and paddocks, centred around a major droveway. This droveway is interpretted as a `market-place' for the exchange of livestock and for regular social gatherings. The droveway through the community stockyards continued eastwards until it encountered the ege of the regularly flooded land at the Power station site, where the line of the droveway was continued by five parallel rows of posts. These ran acros the gradually encroaching wetland of Flag Fen to Northey, some 1200m to the east.

The five rows of posts are collectively termed the `post alignment'. Dendrochronology shows them to have been in use for some 400 years from circa 1300-900 BCE. Some 20m west of the Northey landfall, the post alignment crossed a contemporary large artificial platform constructed of timber. Although the nature, use and development of the platform is not yet understood, it was undoubtedly closely linked physically and functionally with the post alignment. The excellent preservation of the wood has given an excellent insight into Bronze age woodworking techniques.

Study of the faunal remains and pottery showed two distinct assemblages at the Power Station and Flag Fen sites. The former was dominated by domestic material, which might have derived from settlement on the fen edge nearby. There was also a significant ritual component at both sites, but principaly at Flag Fen; ritual finds included complete ceramic vessels and the remains of several dogs.

A large assemblage of metalwork clearly demonstrated the importance of ritual at both sites. Some 275 pieces of metalwork were found at Flag Fen and along the southern part of the post alignment at the Power Station. There is evidence that many of the items were deliberately broken or smashed before being placed in the water. A significant amount of themetalwork could be dated to the Iron Age, and must have been placed in the waters at the post alignment long after the post alignment had been abandoned.

The posts of the alignment were accompanied by 5 levels of horizontal wood which served as reinforcement, foundation, and in places as a path with associated narrow tracks. There was also evidence for transverse timber and wattle partitions, which divided the alignment into segments 5-6m in length.

It is suggested that these segments had an important ritual role. Ritual offerings seem to have been associated with particular segments, perhaps in a role similar to the segments of a causewayed enclosure ditch, perhaps by different kinship groups. It is also suggested that the private or kin-group rites at Flag Fen took place at times of the year when the main community stockyards at the western end of the post alignment were the scene of regular social gatherings.

There is new evidence foar an earlier Neolithic landscape laid out on a wide band, or strip, aligned on a, then, newly discovered embayment on the fen edge.

After the abandonment of the Bronze Age fields, settlement moved above the 5m contour. Excavation at the Tower Works site has shown a connection between the well-known Late Bronze Age - Early Iron Age pits, first discovered in the early decades of the 20th century, and the final use of the Fengate Bronze Age fields. The earliest Iron Age settlement at the Tower Works site includes evidence for nucleated settlement and at least one rectangular building. (10)

Scheduled. For the designation record of this site please see The National Heritage List for England. (11-12)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Antiquity
Source details : F Pryor et al
Page(s) : 439-531
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Vol(s) : 66, 251, JUN 1992
Source Number : 2
Source : Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society
Source details : F Pryor et al
Page(s) : Jan-24
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Vol(s) : 52, 1986
Source Number : 11
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : District: City of Peterborough, 26-MAR-2012
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Source Number : 12
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : English Heritage. 2012. 'English Heritage: The National Heritage List for England', [Accessed 27-MAR-2012]
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Source Number : 3
Source : Fenland Research
Source details : Fenland Research 1 1983-84 25-26 illust
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Source Number : 4
Source : Fenland Research
Source details : Fenland Research 2 1984-85 4-8 figs (F Pryor)
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Source Number : 5
Source : Fenland Research
Source details : Fenland Research 3 1985-86 32-36 (F Pryor)
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Source Number : 6
Source : Fenland Research
Source details : Fenland Research 3 1985-86 38-40 ( M Taylor)
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Source Number : 7
Source : Fenland Research
Source details : Fenland Research 4 1986-87 29
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Source Number : 8
Source : Current archaeology
Source details : Current Archaeology 87 1983 102-106 (F Pryor)
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Source Number : 9
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Current Archaeology 96 1985 6-8 (F Pryor)
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Source Number : 10
Source : The Flag Fen Basin. Archaeology and environment of a Fenland landscape
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Bronze Age
Display Date : Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -700
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type :
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Early Bronze Age
Display Date : Early Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -1600
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Field System, Drove Road
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Late Bronze Age
Display Date : Late Bronze Age
Monument End Date : -700
Monument Start Date : -1200
Monument Type : Post Alignment, Causeway, Ceremonial Platform, Stock Enclosure
Evidence : Excavated Feature, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find

Components and Objects:
Period : Bronze Age
Component Monument Type :
Object Type : AXE, SWORD, DAGGER
Object Material : Bronze
Period : Iron Age
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : SWORD, VOTIVE MODEL
Object Material :

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Cambridgeshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 5576
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 4198/16
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 22
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1406460
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TL 29 NW 41
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1465335
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : FLAG FEN
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1982-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : DYKE 10/MUSTDYKE, SOUTH-WEST FEN DYKE SURVEY
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1982-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : FLAG FEN TRACKWAY
Activity type : FIELD SURVEY
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : FLAG FEN (TIME TEAM)
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : FLAG FEN BASIN
Activity type : DENDROCHRONOLOGICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : FLAG FEN VISITOR CENTRE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : HUDSON BARN, FLAG FEN VISITOR CENTRE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2013-01-01
End Date : 2013-12-31