Monmouth (G-B): Huge prehistoric structure draws further speculation
Excitement over the wooden structure, found on the banks of a long-lost lake on the Parc Glyndwr housing development off Rockfield Road, is growing across Europe.
British experts, having admitted that they could not explain the remains, had consulted Francesco Menotti, Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Prehistory and Archaeological Science at Basel University, Switzerland.
Professor Menotti said he was “extremely intrigued” by the sleeper beam foundations and that “in all honesty I have never seen anything like it”.
Monmouth archaeologists had discovered three trenches where sleeper beams, in the shape of complete trees, had been set horizontally in parallel slots.
This was on top of a Bronze Age mound of ‘pot boilers’ (heated stones used to boil water). The foundations in the shape of timbers from 60cm to 100cm wide and at least 50 feet long (15 metres) were continuing beyond the excavations.
Professor Menotti said they should discard the possibility that the sleeper beams were part of a wooden house.
Although there are quite a few examples of lakeside (or marshland) dwellings in the Circum-Alpine region that have sleeper beams, none of them are of the Monmouth dimensions (‘Houses in Wetland Contexts’ : Menotti, 2012: 130-148).
However, he said that there is always the possibility that the beams were part of a large platform to elevate the waterlogged terrain partially, in order to build a house on top later on.
Such platforms are quite common in the Masurian Lake region of Poland, during the early Iron Age, although once again they do not have such massive timbers.
Professor Menotti also felt that the suggestion that they might be the beams of a wooden trackway (road), as the various examples in Ireland, England, and the northern part of continental Europe (eg the Bohlenwege in Germany) is also very slim.
Even the massive trackway (c.9 metres wide) of Bad-Buchau in the Federsee, in Germany, does not have such large beams (there they are maximum 25-30 cm in diameter).
The professor found the subject of dating the remains even trickier, for even with the results of radiocarbon dating of the burnt mound, which is expected in the next two weeks, would not be a reliable start.
“However, if we take into account the increase in wet climatic conditions during the Iron Age, and the location of the structure in the proximity of a lake, my wild guess would be late Iron Age or very early Roman period,” said Professor Menotti.
“If you allow me, I’d say the three beams were part of a large platform (or levelled surface) constructed on water-saturated soil (directly on the ground – not on stilts).
“What the platform (or surface) was used for, and what (if anything at all) was constructed on top of it, is pure speculation, considering the scant amount of archaeological evidence at the moment.”
Monmouth Archaeology, a professional wing of Monmouth Archaeological Society, has been employed by Charles Church East Wales to cover any archaeological discoveries.
Steve Williams, the managing director, has reorganised the excavation of an attenuation pond to control surface water on the site.