Below the Holnicote Peat 2: The Results

On Friday, Phil sent out the results from the preserved woodland found under two metres of peat. A digger bucket had ripped up the branches and twigs just before Christmas and Wessex Archaeology was commissioned to re-excavate the trench on Alderman’s Barrow on Exmoor in West Somerset.

They took samples for pollen, wood, leaves and insects… any evidence they could extract from the archaeological stratigraphy to understand this potentially ancient preserved environment.

How old was it?

Surely…. significantly old… if so much peat had formed above it. Well, the Radiocarbon dates are back and they do not disappoint.

The peat filled valley, Alderman’s Barrow Allotment where the ancient preserved woodland debris deposit was found 2m down.

One sample taken from preserved wood at the west end of the valley, below the peat, was Early Neolithic 3940-3650 BC, an indicator of how long this area had been part of a forest. Hard to imagine now in this bleak, exposed and largely treeless domain.

Further down the valley, below the peat, an 0.7m deep deposit of vegetation was recorded. The C14 date from the bottom sample was Early Bronze Age (2490-2290 BC) and from the upper surface of the wood debris, where the last branches fell… the date range was 1620-1410 BC.

As Phil, the South West Peatland Project Archaeologist said ‘So far it looks like the woodland may have disappeared by the late Bronze Age, which fits quite well with the onset of colder and wetter conditions’.

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