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ENGLAND - Prehistory

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Author Topic: ENGLAND - Prehistory  (Read 2911 times)
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« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2009, 07:55:08 pm »

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                                             Putting the clock back 10,000 years

on: February 02, 2008, 09:24:09 pm Quote 

Putting the clock back 10,000 years
02/02/2008 12:29:48 AM EST

Chock-full of famous Roman Baths, Celtic kings, Georgian crescents and Jane Austen, the history of Bath already ran to quite a weighty tome.

But archaeologists admitted yesterday that two new chapters would have to be written after amazing discoveries made while a new sewer was being dug.

At the very depths of the site of a new GBP350 million shopping centre in the heart of the ancient city, archaeologists found new evidence that extends the history of the city thousands of years further back.

The archaeologists found the first evidence of human activity near the banks of the River Avon dating back to 8,000BC, that's before any kind of recorded history and even before the idea of farming had reached the British Isles.

The first Bathonians were hunter- gatherers, following herds of deer and other game along the river valley, attracted by the hot springs and the plentiful fish in the River Avon.

And on the spot where people would later settle and use the hot springs, they made tools, fished and left scraps of archaeological evidence, according to Bath and North East Somerset archaeologist Richard Sermon.

"Previously, archaeological interest has been on the Roman and medieval times in Bath, but this has given us a glimpse right back into the very first people who would have come to what is now Bath," he said.

"The hunter-gatherers would have been attracted by the game here and the fishing, and possibly by the micro-environment caused by the hot springs. It takes the history of Bath right back to 8,000BC.

"It's not perhaps rewriting the history of Bath, but giving us a new chapter. It tells us that people came here that long ago. Flint tools and other items were found in the alluvial deposits." The archaeologists also found evidence that Alfred the Great viewed Bath as part of his chain of fortified towns right across southern England, as he built a line of defences against the Danes.

Back in 880, two years after Alfred returned from the Somerset marshes to defeat the Danes and push them out of Wessex, he ordered a chain of towns to have their defences beefed up. So such towns as Malmesbury and Cricklade in Wiltshire, and Barnstaple in Devon became effectively huge castles with defensive ramparts to repel any Viking invasion.

And while Bath's Dark Age history has remained elusive, Mr Sermon said the exciting evidence showed that Bath was part of his plans too.

"Here we have found evidence of a very early ditch which would have been defensive and crossed where Southgate Street later ran.

"It was actually found while work went on to construct a combine sewer outfall for the new shopping centre. We dated it and discovered it was late Saxon, which would match the defensive work in other places at the time of King Alfred," he added.

The evidence for new chapters in Bath's history has captured the imagination of 21st-century Bathonians. A lecture held last month in which the archaeologists revealed their findings, was so popular people had to be turned away.

So heritage bosses are holding a repeat on Monday, February 11, at 7pm in the Guildhall.

Copyright 2008 Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd, Source: The Financial Times Limited
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