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Sunday, 1 June 2014

Ancient Britain's Giant Pallisade Causeway - Flag Fen


Today, Carole and I decided to go to Flag Fen. Flag Fen is an open museum with replica Bronze Age and Iron Agedwellings. These abodes are inside compounds with goats and other things symbolic of the ancient Celtic Britons that lived in such places.

Upon first entering the grounds, I thought everything looked a little basic, but we did have great constructions of the Bronze Age hut from around 2,500 BC to 800 BC. Also the Iron Age hut of 700 BC to 43 AD when the Romans invaded.

Because I have written a novel about a fictional meeting between Boudicca of Iceni and Cartimandua ofBrigantes, I was especially interested in seeing the place. It full filled my anticipations for photographing, as expected, but there was this incredible bonus factor that I had not fore seen and was totally ignorant of. Because I was so focused on the replica Celtic dwellings, I might have missed the reason for Flag Fen Museum’s existence.

When Carole and I entered, the lady at the entrance complex asked if we might pay an extra £2 on top of the £5 entrance fee. This was for a guided tour which would commence at 11 pm. I just wanted to snap a few photos of the replica dwellings, but I felt compelled to offer an extra £2 for the tour. It was, after all, very cheap.  Wow! I was so pleased I did.

The significance of Flag Fen Museum was that it is built upon the sight of a gigantic wooden causeway that stretched for several miles. This wooden built palisade bridge went across bits of pasture and scattered lakes that rose and fell according to the seasons. The Fenlands is very flat with some of it below sea level. In these ancient times, British tribes, mainly Iceni, and what went before them sought their living upon this marshy expanse. This is the very place where I live today.

This wooden causeway was a superstructure of engineering in that time. The people or communities that lived in these times were very affluent with their herds of goats and other agricultural pastimes. The Fens gave them a great living where the difference of four feet of height to a land area could mean so much. You must also realise that these people lived this way of life with their treasured causeway for around 2,000 years. This wooden structure was maintained for that period of time. Therefore the wood would have been constantly attended too. This was engineering upon a scale that is equal to or in excess of Stonehenge for stone does not need the constant attention that the wooden causeways needed. This was constructed during the time of Mesopotamia and when Tutankhamun was alive. OK, this (Flag Fen) can’t compare with such civilizations but this Flag Fen was still exceptional for its place and time – prehistory people who had no written word.

In this time the Fens were more susceptible to the rise and flow of the tides and in winter huge meadows became lakes forming scattered islands, where the dwellers lived with their herds through winter, waiting for the summer when the waters receded and allowed for the flocks to graze on the pastures after the waters had gone. These islands were linked by wooden palisade causeways. The whole area was full of huge lakes and scattered islands linked by causeway bridges in the winter.

The Celtic people of this time used the ways of the Fenlands to fish, grow crops on higher fertile grounds and herd goats and sheep too. They did not do this on a small scale according to the guide showing us about. They did it on a huge scale. There were thousands upon thousands of goats and sheep and the fish and eel catching was on a huge trading scale. This industry went on from 2, 800 when the Beaker people brought the concept of smelting bronze to Ancient Britain until 40 AD when the Roman Empire destroyed the commerce and industry and replaced it with a new one. What I’m trying to say is that industry and commerce was thriving in the Fenlands and they traded with the known world from 2800 BC onwards.

This gigantic causeway that was used and maintained for 2,000 years would have been something to behold. Even in 700 BC when it was abandoned because of rising waters, the locals still used the causeway for ceremonial purposes. The stake and stumps protruding from the grounds are littered with broken swords and other broken artefacts. These broken relics were offering to the Gods. Often tools or weapons or jewellery was broken so that it would go into the afterlife as an offering to the Gods.

The causeway was again discovered and unveiled when a giant PowerStation was being built. The grounds men, digging the foundations, came across what was either the end or the beginning of this ancient superstructure where the joist foundations were discovered in the mud. Close by is a place called Much Farm where more artefacts linked to the causeway have been discovered. The surrounding Fens are a treasure trove and the museums have many things of domestic life for the Celtic Britons who lived here. They were a very vein people who like to look good. They wore make up and painted their bodies. The men had special girdles that they had to be able to fit into. This encouraged them to keep a fitness programme. During the Bronze Age they were not particularly warlike, though they would have had skirmishes, but by the Iron Age they did develop into a more warlike tribal community with land borders. These became the Iceni.

This discovery at the power station and that of a man investigating the man-made drainage dykes of a latter age, triggered off a sequence of events where archaeologists began to follow the giant palisade causeway’s line. People continue to find many artefacts

The Flag Fen palisade causeway went across a vast lake and over an island halfway. This island was the size of two football pitches.

Bird's eye view of Flag Fen palisade causeway
 

















 

 
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