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6,500-year-old wooden paddle

Archaeologists unearth a 6,500-year-old wooden paddle

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Archaeologists investigating a site in Northern England have discovered a prehistoric wetland which was a hive of human activity at least 6,500 years ago during the Neolithic period. The site in Bamburgh, Northumberland, normally consists of wet pasture but a particularly dry summer gave archaeologists the chance to see what lay beneath.

The Bamburgh Research Project led to the discovery of a 6,500-year-old wooden paddle , sitting on a brushwood platform next to a burnt mound where piles of stones had been heated by fire.  The purpose of the paddle and stones are still a mystery but researchers have suggested that the heated stones could have been used for a number of activities including, cooking, brewing, tanning, metal extraction, canoe making or even sweat lodges. Rather than been used for paddling a canoe, the archaeologists believe it was used for moving hot rocks off the burnt mound.

“At this moment we think the platform and paddle are very, very early Neolithic, making it in the order of 6,000 or more years old,” said Project co-director Graeme Young. This dates back to the period of the very first farmers.  “To find preserved organic material like this from this period is incredibly rare in Britain,” he said.

Bradford Kaims in Bamburgh would have once been a series of shallow lakes connected by streams and the team also found four small artificial islands made of stone rubble on wood foundations, which may have been used to reach deeper water for the ritual offering of gifts, or as a base from which to set fish traps.

The findings are currently being held in safe storage at Edinburgh University. Further investigations will resume next year.

By April Holloway

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