Race to Record Bronze Age Site before Waves Reclaim It

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson ENVIRONMENT

EROSION is not only eating away at the North East coastline - It is also claiming thousands of years of history.

The clay, peat and sand foreshore at Low Hauxley on Druridge Bay near Amble is disappearing at the rate of a metre a year.

Now hundreds of volunteers will be behind a bid to excavate a 16-metre wide burial ground from 4,000 years ago on the foreshore 1.5 metres above the beach.

Already half of the burial cairn has been lost to the sea over recent decades, revealing three stone-lined burial chambers , or cists, and the remains of eight Bronze Age people.

Also found have been pottery beakers which have been shown to have held alcoholic liquid to accompany the dead on their journey to the afterlife.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded PS285,000 to finance the Rescued From the Sea project at Low Hauxley.

From Monday until the end of August, around 500 community volunteers and schoolchildren will have taken part in the dig. The project is led by Northumberland Wildlife Trust, whose Hauxley nature reserve is near the burial ground and Archaeological Research Services Ltd, whose md is Dr Clive Waddington.

He said: "The exceptional circumstances of preservation at Low Hauxley mean that we are in a race against time to investigate and record one of the best-preserved sites of its kind in the country before more of the site is lost to the sea."

Dr Waddington said that in the Bronze Age, the burial ground would have been on a raised island mound, surrounded by a landscape of lagoons and wetland and it was in use for about 400 years.

Beneath the Bronze Age levels, around 100 flints have been found which were used by hunter-gatherer Mesolithic people who 8,000 years ago exploited the area's natural resources.

Near the site, and revealed only during certain tidal and storm conditions, is a peat bed with the 8,000-year-old fossilised footprints of adults, children and animals, including the hoof prints of wild pig, red deer and wild cattle . "This has been an area of woodland which has been inundated with water. People and animals have walked on the softened ground and left their prints. Sand has quickly covered the area and fossilised the prints," said Dr Waddington.

It is thought the burial ground went out of use around 1,800BC after being covered in a deep layer of sand, perhaps from a major storm or tsunami. …

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