Intact Bronze Age pot found during excavation near Ely

An intact Bronze Age pot and a previously unknown Saxon village with a large hall were among the “exceptional” finds unearthed during excavation.

Britannia Archeology experts have been working on the site near Ely, Cambridgeshire, for almost a year.

They expected only a few months of work, but instead found evidence of millennia of occupation.

Archaeologist Alice Schute praised the craftsmanship of the artefacts, saying “it is a site that keeps on giving”.

“Exceptional really is the word. It’s something you won’t find often in your career, the sheer intensity and amount of finds,” she said.

Work began on the site, which is to be converted into housing by Orbit Homes, in October.

The nearly intact 35 cm-high (14 in) late Neolithic or early Bronze Age urn, dating from about 4,000 years old, was a particularly rare find.

Project officer Miss Schute said: “Normally we find fragments of pots that are a bit smashed and broken. We don’t usually get a whole vessel that is 95% complete and still standing.”

Martin Brook, Britannia Archeology director, said they expected the sides of the pot to collapse as they picked it up from the ground, but that was not the case.

Evidence unearthed so far reveals that the site was occupied right up to the Roman period and was then apparently abandoned until the 4th or 5th Century AD a village was built.

At least 20 buildings have been excavated including a “great hall” and they are believed to be part of a much larger Saxon settlement, Mr Brook said.

Miss Schute said: “What’s special about the village is that we have sunken features, like these recreated at West Stow in Suffolk.

“Instead of being built above ground, they dig into the ground and it’s quite rare to get one or two but we have 12 and some of them are particularly deep, 20 to 30cm (8in to 12in) underground.”

Other buildings were dug even deeper underground, up to 80 cm (31 in), and revealed signs of industrial use.

“We found loom weights, spinners, needles and tiny, tiny beads — blink and you’ll miss them,” she said.

“You think, ‘someone last touched this thousands of years ago’, yet some of these artifacts look like they could have been created yesterday.”

The excavation will continue until Christmas and then post-excavation analysis will begin.

“The site is important for local history but it has a much wider significance – nobody knew it was here,” added Miss Schute.

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