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Somerset Historic Environment Record

12787

Site Name: Evaluation (1996), Balt Moor Wall, Athelney
Civil Parish: Lyng
Part of:
PRN 10545Balt Moor Wall, between East Lyng and Athelney, Lyng
Grid Ref: ST 3399 2916 (ST 32 NW)
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Public access:

It is unlikely that there is anything to see unless this event took place on a site (see link above) where there may be details of access. Otherwise please assume that the site is on private land. [Information last updated on 21 May 2003]

Details:

As part of investigations into the safety of the Balt Moor Wall (PRN 10545) several boreholes were monitored and trenches excavated. The main excavation involved the digging of a section across the wall at the above NGR. This showed several phases of construction, the most recent in 1994 and the 1960s. Prior to this were two phases of stone construction which may relate to documented episodes in 1675 and 1880. These were revetting the medieval bank which could be dated by pottery at the base to C14 or later. It is possible that an earlier phase of bank was located at the limit of the excavation. Evidence of iron working was also recovered which is probably to be associated with that recovered from Athelney in 1993 (PRN 11117). {1}

A number of samples were taken through deposits of alluvial silts and peat and were assessed for their palaeoenvironmental potentail through pollen, diatom, foraminfera and plant macro-fossil analysis. Of of the profiles collected were dated to either the 2nd millenium BC (Bronze Age), or 1st millenium AD (Roman to medieval), and two profiles, one from each of these periods, were selected for detailed analysis. Results showed that through the Bronze Age the local environment was dominated by woodland with oak, hazel, lime and ash. The depositional environment changed from a grass/sedge fen in the Early-Middle Bronze Age to a wetalnd carr woodland, regressing to a grass-sedge fen in later Bronze Age, possibly due to widespread positive eustatic changes. Retrieved Late Bronze Age timbers may have come from atrackway, perhaps constructed in response to the increasing local wetness. Pollen evidence also indicates a general background of arable agriculture throughout the sequence, but probably not in the immediate vicinity.

A similar depositional sequence was apparent from the 1st millenium AD, with a grass/sedge fen of the early Roman period giving way to a drier swamp and ultimately alder carr environment, but which in the 11th to 12th century also regressed back to a wetter floodplain, possibly with episodes of marine incursion. Water management by the monks of Athelney Abbey from the 12th century onwards probably contributed. The local environment was dominated by herbs and grasses with few trees and shrubs. Pollen evidence again indicates a general background of arable agriculture and some evidence for increasing pasture. Thick deposits of coluvium recorded over the early medieval bank and ditch appear to provide firmer evidence for soil erosion on Athelney Hill, probably due to arable farming following the founding of the abbey in the late 9th century AD. {3}

References:

1 Excavation report - Collings, AG, Cottrell, PM and Reed, SJ. Baltmoor Wall Flood Defence Scheme, East Lyng, Athelney, Somerset: Archaeological Assessment and Watching Brief.  Unpublished Exeter Archaeology report No: 96.61 (1996) Fig 1 (location plan) missing. Location: HER file. HER digital source: 20694.
2 Museum accession number - TTNCM 153/1997. Stored at Museum collection at Somerset Heritage Centre. (Exeter Archaeology).
3 Detailed records - Watts, R and Scaife, R. The Archaeology and Paleoenvironment of Baltmoor Wall: Investigations during impovements to the Lower Tone Flood Defence Scheme, 1996-2002.  Unpublished Cotswold Archaeology report No: 06987 (2007) Draft publication report. Location: HER file 44755.
4 Excavation report - Watts, M and Scaife, R. The archaeology and palaeoenvironment of Baltmoor Wall, Somerset Levels: The lower Tone flood defence scheme, 1996-2002. Archaeology in the Severn Estuary.  19 (2008), 21-70
5 Museum accession number - TTNCM 80/1999. Stored at Somerset County Museum at Somerset Heritage Centre (Cotswold Archaeology).

Record created on 10 March 1998

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