The Flag Fen basin is an area of low-lying land on the western margin of the Fens, just south east of Peterborough. To the east and west, the land gently rises and is flood-free. The eastern dry land is known as Fengate, and the west as Northey. In the middle lies Flag Fen, where peats began to form in the increasingly wet environment around 2000 BC.
Our focus is on what began to happen at Flag Fen in the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1300 BC), when farmers in the Fengate and Northey area began to experience difficulty in their fields due to increasing wetness from rising water levels.
A causeway, built of timber, was driven across Flag Fen, linking the two areas of higher and drier ground. This causeway, known as a post alignment, was constructed of large posts arranged in five rows. Between the posts, timbers were built up horizontally, which provided the surface for transportation. Closer to the Northey side of the causeway, an artificial timber platform was constructed, the purpose of which is yet to be fully revealed.
We do know that some part of the purpose of this platform must have been ceremonial, however, as the area around it has produced thousands of finds, including metal, stone, shale, ceramic and other objects, along with cuts of meat, food and perishable items. These items were placed in the water around the platform deliberately, with many showing evidence of having been broken or damaged prior to placement in the water. The last timbers of the post alignment and platform were added approximately 900 BC, but the site continued to be visited throughout the Iron Age.
One of the most important aspects of the archaeology at Flag Fen is the fantastic preservation environment created by the peats. Many items of leather and wood were kept in nearly pristine condition by the lack of oxygen in the peat, and thus the artefacts are an incredibly important and unique record of Bronze Age life.
With only 5% of the monument having been excavated thus far, it is certain that Flag Fen has many more secrets to share, as we look to the future of this amazing site.