Archaeologists reconstruct ancient Bronze Age trackway using socket axes

By Culture24 Repporter | 07 March 2016

Curators in Eastbourne are remaking a Bronze Age track using Bronze Age tools

a photo of a chopped logs and branches laid across each other
Bronze Age trackway reconstruction underway with a Bronze Age tool of the trade; the socket axe © Heritage Eastbourne
Archaeologists in Eastbourne are rebuilding part of a Bronze Age trackway using the ancient tools of the time.

The wooden trackway, which was partly excavated by archaeologists and volunteers during the redevelopment of  Eastbourne’s Shinewater Park in 1995, was discovered to be at least 250m long, and although it was hewn from oak, it is thought to have only taken around one year to build.

Archaeologists at the time said the raised timber platform - buried under several feet of clay - was probably part of a small settlement or trading post dating to about 2,800 years ago and part of a complex of timber trackways that criss-crossed the marshlands that once dominated the northern part of Eastbourne. 

The archaeological site also revealed a multitude of artefacts dating from the 9th century BC, posing some important questions about who actually lived here, why they purposefully buried many objects and why Eastbourne was so significant to the people who lived there 3,000 years ago.

A photo of two Bronze Age axe heads displayed on perspex plinths
Bronze Age axes from the collection at Eastbourne© Heritage Eastbourne
To answer some of these questions archaeologists are stepping back in time to recreate part of the trackway for a new exhibition, Making Tracks: Eastbourne’s Bronze Age Mystery, which will take visitors on a journey through the environment of the Bronze Age landscape.

The exhibition posits five possible theories as to why the trackway was built and clusters them around the themes of Village, Ritual, Trading Post, Super-Farm and Melting Pot.

As visitors journey around the exhibition, they will be invited to arrive at their own individual conclusions, piece together the mysteries of why the trackway was built and why many precious items were deposited into the ground, during the pre-historic period.

Artefacts on display include part of a Roman horse’s skeleton, a large 3,000-year-old wooden stake, animal bones, Bronze Age hand-made pottery and axes from an early Bronze Age burial mound; with a theme of sacrifice and ritual deposits woven throughout.

a photo of a weathered log
A 3,000 year old log recovered from the Eastbourne Bronze Age trackway© Heritage Eastbourne
At the centre of the exhibition is the recreated trackway, which for sustainability reason has been  built with chestnut, but still maintains the integrity of the project down to the detailed and authentic tool marks on the wood created by using the replica axes.

“The discovery of such a lively Bronze Age community here in Eastbourne truly is astonishing,” said Eastbourne Councillor Margaret Bannister, “and the authentic way in which we have recreated the trackway and built it into an environment which brings the Bronze Age to life, is going to make for an extremely engaging exhibition.”

An intriguing opportunity to delve into the social, economic and ideological factors that underpinned Late Bronze Age society in Southeast England.

  • Making Tracks; Eastbourne’s Bronze Age mystery is at the Pavilion on Royal Parade, Eastbourne from March 21 – November 13. Entry is free of charge. For more information visit www.EastbourneMuseums.co.uk

More from Culture24's Archaeology section:

Archaeologists to excavate Lindisfarne in search of the elusive original monastery

"That's what archaeology is all about": Mesolithic shaman's necklace in Yorkshire could be earliest art from period found in Britain

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

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