Mersea Island timbers may have been part of planked trackway across Essex marshland

Members of the CITiZAN team stretcher one of the timbers discovered at Mersea Island ashore. Picture

Members of the CITiZAN team stretcher one of the timbers discovered at Mersea Island ashore. Picture: CITiZAN - Credit: Archant

Archaeologists and volunteers have rescued well-preserved prehistoric timbers 650 metres offshore at Cooper’s Beach on Mersea Island.

Members of the CITiZAN team cleaning the timbers discovered at Mersea Island before they are lifted

Members of the CITiZAN team cleaning the timbers discovered at Mersea Island before they are lifted and brought ashore. Picture: CITiZAN - Credit: Archant

Experts say the timbers provide an “amazing insight” into the development of industry and changing landscapes on the east coast and the work of the team will be featured on Countryfile Winter Diaries at 9.15am on Wednesday, February 15.

The recovery of the timbers was carried out by CITiZAN (the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network) after local oysterman Daniel French first spotted the wood after it was exposed by raging winter storms.

CITiZAN archaeologists have revealed that the timbers may have formed part of a 75m long planked trackway connecting wet and drier areas of marshland, enabling people to move across the landscape.

Each of the planks have axe-marks and sockets cut through the ends which would have been used to stake the structure firmly to the ground.

Studies taking [place on one of the timbers the CITiZAN team brought ashore at Mersea Island. Pictur

Studies taking [place on one of the timbers the CITiZAN team brought ashore at Mersea Island. Picture: CITiZAN - Credit: Archant


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Oliver Hutchinson, CITiZAN archaeologist who led the team, said the discovery was of potentially national significance.

He said: “The Mersea timbers are possibly part of a much bigger archaeological site sitting on a long lost landscape.

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“As the sea continues to expose more archaeology, we will be able to work with our team of volunteers to map and record it so we can piece together the clues and build an ever more detailed picture of a prehistoric Mersea Island.”

The team has been working closely with Colchester Borough Council and Historic England, which is now caring for the timbers and will be using radio carbon and dendrochronological (tree-ring) dating methods.

Demonstration showing how a replica Bronze Age axe could have created the holes in the timbers broug

Demonstration showing how a replica Bronze Age axe could have created the holes in the timbers brought ashore by members of the CITiZAN team at Mersea Island. Picture: CITiZAN - Credit: Archant

Dr Zoe Outram, science advisor at Historic England, said: “The relationship and date of the five timbers will be investigated to see if they were part of the same trackway. Initial investigations suggest that the wooden trackway was prehistoric, potentially dating to the Bronze Age, but this will be determined through scientific dating funded by Historic England.

“Further work in partnership with CiTIZAN will look at how the structure was built and the type of wood used. This will provide valuable insights into woodland management and trackway construction techniques at that time.”

Members of the CITiZAN team lifting at timbers discovered at Mersea Island. Picture: CITiZAN

Members of the CITiZAN team lifting at timbers discovered at Mersea Island. Picture: CITiZAN - Credit: Archant

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