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Archaeologists unearth a 6,500-year-old mystery

Archaeologists have unearthed a 6,500 year-old timber paddle at Bradford Kaims, near Bamburgh.

Archaeologists have unearthed a 6,500 year-old timber paddle at Bradford Kaims, near Bamburgh.

Archaeologists have found a prehistoric wetland site near Bamburgh which was a hive of human activity for at least 2,000 years.

The dry summer gave archaeologists from the Bamburgh Research Project a valuable opportunity to excavate part of the site at Bradford Kaims.

It is now wet pasture but was once a series of shallow lakes connected by streams, which drained into Budle Bay.

They uncovered a wooden paddle, sitting on a brushwood platform, which dates from around 6,500 years ago at the start of the Neolithic period - the time of the very first farmers. The paddle and platform were next to a burnt mound - piles of stones which had been heated by fire.

These heated stones could have been used for a number of activities, from cooking and brewing to tanning, metal extraction, canoe making or even sweat lodges - the forerunner of saunas.

Four small artificial islands have also been found, made of stone rubble on wood foundations.

These may have been used to reach deeper water for the ritual offering of gifts, or as a base from which to set fish traps.

Project co-director Graeme Young said: “To find preserved organic material like this from this period is incredibly rare in Britain.

The timber paddle. was lying just on top of a timber platform, formed from round wood lengths pegged into the underlying layers.

“The platform would have been exciting enough but the paddle is just outstanding,” said Mr Young. “We think from parallels that it may be for moving the hot rocks off the burnt mound rather than paddling a canoe.

“At this moment we think the platform and paddle are very, very early Neolithic, making it in the order of 6,000 or more years old.”

The paddle was obviously in a very fragile state and if left to dry out would have been lost so the team lifted it in a block with the supporting deposits.

It is currently in safe storage at Edinburgh University. The process of freeing the find from its protective covers will start soon.

The project has been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage but funding is needed to continue the investigation next year.

 

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