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Metal Work in the Early Bronze Age

2500-1500 BC

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With the arrival in Britain of skilled metal-workers from mainland Europe around 2500 BC, metal technology began. These people are called the Beaker People, the name arising from their particular style of pottery. The first metal used was copper, but this was soon replaced by the harder bronze (an alloy of 90% copper with 10% tin), for which the time period, the Bronze Age, is named. Smiths working in the Peterborough area, mostly in the east, produced hundreds of swords, daggers, spearheads, axes, pins, ornaments and jewellery, such as rings. The production of metal led to greater control of fire and with it, improved, harder pottery.    





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Settlement in the Early Bronze Age

2500-1500 BC

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During the Neolithic the local population had grown from hundreds to perhaps a few thousand people. This process gathered pace in the Bronze Age, which is named after the arrival of metal-workers in Britain, around 2500 BC. As the population grew it became necessary to divide-up the landscape into field systems; some of the earliest fields in England are found in Peterborough. Meanwhile North Sea levels were steadily rising and the nearby floodplain of the River Nene became permanent Fen. Animals were grazed on its lush summer pastures. Major sites of this time have been found at Fengate, Must Farm and Bradley Fen.





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Later Bronze Age Population

1500-800 BC

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By 1500 BC the lower Nene Valley and Fen-edge regions of Peterborough had become one of the most prosperous landscapes in prehistoric Britain, fertile and rich in resources. The local population was well into the thousands and there were tens of thousands of cattle and sheep grazing the elaborately arranged field systems around the Fen margins. Most of the farms and settlements were on the drier, flood-free margins of the wetlands, but a few were constructed over the water on wooden piles, such as the one at Must Farm.  





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Flag Fen

1300-900 BC

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Flag Fen is a superbly preserved Bronze Age structure. It consisted of a causeway whose posts were arranged in five rows running in a straight line from Fengate to Northey a distance of a kilometre. In the middle of this causeway was a huge wooden platform. The construction of this causeway started in 1300 BC (at a time when Tutankhamen ruled Egypt) and continued for 400 years. The structure was probably a boundary as well as a causeway and may also have formed a defensive palisade to protect the richly resourced Flag Fen Basin. It is, however, likely that it was also used as a shrine or temple, as hundreds of offerings of high status and valuable items, bronze tools, weapons and jewellery, were offered to the waters between the great posts. This continued long after the causeway itself had gone out of use.





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Must Farm

800 BC

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During the later Bronze age most of the farms and settlements in this area were on the drier, flood-free margins of the wetlands, though a few were constructed over the water on wooden piles. One of these small settlements (of some ten houses) has been found at Must Farm on the western edge of Whittlesey. Around 800 BC the houses caught fire very soon after they were built (whether the fires were accidental or deliberate is still under debate) and the entire platform collapsed into the waters below. Because of the fire and the waterlogged conditions the houses collapsed into, Must Farm is a beautifully preserved  archaeological site; it has been described as the Bronze Age Pompeii as the fantastic amount of finds ( including wood, pots, food, jewellery and even fabric)  have revealed a great deal about Bronze Age life and trade. Near to Must Farm, along the channel the River Nene took in antiquity, archaeologists discovered nine intact Bronze Age log  boats, all fashioned from hollowed-out tree trunks, which were sunk over a period of 600 years. These boats are currently undergoing conservation at Flag Fen, where they are on display.





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Borough Fen Burials

2400-1500 BC

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The landscape in the area north-east of Peterborough, incorporating Borough Fen, Milking Nook and Newborough would have looked very different in the late-Neolithic and Bronze Age to the present agricultural scene. Archaeological investigations have discovered that the landscape contained several bowl barrows and ring ditches, now buried below the surface. Bowl barrows were part of funeral rituals and contained single or multiple burials. They are common in lowland areas, although Borough Fen is remarkable for the number clustered along the prehistoric fen edge. The majority are approximately 5m in diameter, but the scheduling area around them is much more extensive.





An Olympic Gymnast (and Dancer!) Born

1989

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Louis Smith was born in Peterborough on 22 April 1989 and was educated at Arthur Mellows Village College. He is an artistic gymnast and won a bronze medal on the pommel horse at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was the first time a British gymnast had placed in an Olympic event since 1928.  There was disappointment at the London Olympics in 2012 where he fell just short of gold. He tied with Kristian Berki, but took silver for a lower execution score. At the 2016 Rio Olympics he again won a silver medal, this time finishing behind his teammate, Max Whitlock. Smith was also part of the Great Britain team that took the bronze in the men's artistic team all-around at the 2012 London Olympics. He is the only British gymnast to win Olympic medals in three separate Games, and only the second gymnast to win three successive Olympic pommel horse medals. As well as his talents in the gym he showed his versatility by winning the 2012 series of  Strictly Come Dancing.





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Oxney Monastic Community

1100

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Oxney was once home to a group of monks. The monks were from Peterborough Abbey and would stay there for short spells and then return to the abbey. A chapel was built there in the reign of Henry I, so between 1100 and 1135. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and on occasion known as the Church of St Mary of Oxney. Six monks would have lived at Oxney in what was known as a small cell. One of the monks took over all control of the site and was known as the warden. The last warden of Oxney was Edward Berney who lost his position in 1538 following the dissolution of the monasteries. The site remained in use as a farm or grange until recent times and several of the present buildings can be dated to the monastic cell. Archaeological investigations have revealed habitation since the late Bronze Age. Other features include the remains of a considerable moat which once encircled the buildings, still partly intact, a figurine and a cauldron. There are also purportedly several previous inhabitants who never quite left the vicinity... The land is privately owned and not accessible to the general public. Photo credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Richard Humphrey - geograph.org.uk/p/2492003