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K. Kris Hirst

Oldest Trackway found in Plumstead

By August 15, 2009

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University College London's Institute of Archaeology reported this week that they had discovered an ancient trackway—a wooden roadway or footpath constructed for crossing bogs—which has been radiocarbon dated to nearly 6,000 years old.

Belmarsh Trackway, London
The structure is a timber platform or trackway found at a depth of 4.7m (about the height of a double-decker bus) beneath two meters of peat adjacent to an ancient river channel. Photo by University College London

The trackway was discovered some fourteen feet below the surface of a peat bog near Belmarsh Prison, during excavations in advance of expansion of the prison. The radiocarbon dates make the Plumstead trackway slightly older than the previously oldest known trackway of Sweet Track (built 3807 or 3806 BC, based on tree ring dates).

Also discovered in the excavation was an alder log with tool marks from a bronze axe or adze of some kind; the News Shopper article below has a photo of that.

Trackways, like Sweet Track and others in the Somerset Levels region of England, represent the oldest prepared road type that we know of in the world, making the Plumstead discovery an important one indeed.


August 15, 2009 at 3:52 pm
(1) Miriam Pat Thorpe says:

The peat bogs just get more and more interesting, don’t they?

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