Sunday, 23 December 2012

Flag Fen and Seahenge - Francis Pryor's blog

I've just added a link on the side bar to Francis Pryor's blog. He's an archaeologist who has been involved in Time Team, and before that he was in charge of Flag Fen, a Bronze Age site near Peterborough. Because of the wet conditions, all sorts of things that would never otherwise be preserved have survived here - including many thousands of timbers. It's well worth a visit - I went while I was an archaeologist at Norwich (it was a sort of "school trip" - all the archaeologists on the Norwich dig got a coach for the day!). It has a visitor's centre and reconstructed houses from the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
What I remember most about the day there was the constant grittiness of the wind, as the Fenland's were literally blowing away bit by bit. They were naturally waterlogged, and draining them for farming has had the effect of uncovering fertile soil, but also drying it out to the point where it just blows away, a little bit more each year.
Francis Pryor was also involved in the excavation of Seahenge, which is a quite magnificent Bronze Age site originally positioned on the beach at Old Hunstanton in Norfolk. It had to be moved because it was being washed away, to the dismay of various neo-Pagan groups. Personally, I'm glad that it will be there for me to see when I finally get over to that part of the world again.
Francis Pryor has written books about both these sites, as well as other books which I can recommend as being readable and interesting and based on a lot of research.
Someone else who's written (fiction this time) about archaeology very similar to Seahenge is Elly Griffiths, in her mystery novel The Crossing Places. Her main character is an archaeologist who gets called in by the police. I saw Elly Griffiths a couple of years ago at Hay Festival, sharing a stage with Phil Rickman (who writes mysteries set in Herefordshire) and another lady whose name I forget. I'd forgotten Elly Griffiths too, though I thought at the time that I'd be interested to read her books, until I saw her mentioned again today on Francis Pryor's blog. Archaeologists in fiction tend to have appalling techniques (I'm looking at YOU, Indiana Jones - but it's not only Indy...) and be almost indistinguishable from treasure hunters, but this one seems to be doing it properly.

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