Metre-wide wheel found at Must Farm shows Bronze Age transport and technological ingenuity, say archaeologists

By Ben Miller | 18 February 2016

Archaeologists have found a large intact wheel at Must Farm's astonishing time capsule of Bronze Age Britain

A photo of a muddy ancient wheel found by archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire
© Cambridge Archaeological Unit / Dave Webb
An “unprecedented” large prehistoric wheel found with its hub intact at the site of a set of roundhouses destroyed by fire 3,000 years ago could reveal the design expertise of Bronze Age Britons, say archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire.

A photo of a muddy ancient wheel found by archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire
© Cambridge Archaeological Unit / Dave Webb
Described as “remarkable but fragile”, the earliest complete wheel of its kind spans a metre in diameter and is thought to date from between 1100 and 800 BC. An incomplete Bronze Age wheel was found a few miles away at Flag Fen during the 1990s.

A photo of a muddy ancient wheel found by archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire
© Cambridge Archaeological Unit / Dave Webb
Kasia Gdaniec, the Senior Archaeologist for Cambridgeshire County Council, thinks the wheel could have given the settlement’s residents access to other areas of the fen over the river.

A photo of a muddy ancient wheel found by archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire
© Cambridge Archaeological Unit / Dave Webb
“This wheel poses a challenge to our understanding of both Late Bronze Age technological skill and, together with the eight boats recovered from the same river in 2011, transportation,” she says.

A photo of a muddy ancient wheel found by archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire
© Cambridge Archaeological Unit / Dave Webb
“This site continues to amaze and astonish us with its insight into prehistoric life, the latest being the discovery of this wooden wheel.”

A photo of a muddy ancient wheel found by archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire
© Cambridge Archaeological Unit / Dave Webb
A set of circular wooden houses, believed to be the best–preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found in Britain, have led archaeologists to dub Must Farm “the Peterborough Pompeii”.  A wooden platter, tools, a small wooden box and bowls and jars with food remains inside have also been discovered at a site abandoned when it burnt down.

A photo of a muddy ancient wheel found by archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire
© Cambridge Archaeological Unit / Dave Webb
A smaller wheel, measuring 0.8 metres and dating from around 1300 BC, was found at Lingwood Farm near Cottenham, and the earliest wheels in Europe date to the Copper Age of at least 2500 BC.

A photo of a muddy ancient wheel found by archaeologists at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire
© Cambridge Archaeological Unit / Dave Webb
The four-year, £1.1 million excavation will excavate 1,100 square metres of the quarry area.

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More from Culture24's coverage of Must Farm

"Best-preserved Bronze Age dwellings ever found in Britain" discovered in Cambridgeshire

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