Bronze Age wooden well found in Oxfordshire

Road construction in Oxfordshire has uncovered a well-preserved wooden well that dates to the Bronze Age (2300–800 B.C.). Oxford Archaeology was excavating the site of a planned relief road when they discovered the remains of a wooden post planted vertically into the ground. Several more posts were unearthed as excavation continued and they were revealed to be the uprights of a wattle lining of a pit.

The wood survived in such good condition because it was in waterlogged soil. The soil is heavily waterlogged even today, which made it a challenging environment for excavation. The archaeologists nonetheless were able to excavate the whole well and digitally record it in situ. It was then dismantled piece by piece and transported to the Oxfordshire Museum Service for study and conservation.

Soil samples were taken from inside and around the well, and a sample of the wood has been sent for analysis. Archaeologists hope the samples will give them more information about the well itself and its environs: its landscape, how densely settled it was, what type of wood was used, what tools were used to harvest and shape the wood. Radiocarbon dating will be employed to narrow down the dates the well was in active use.

Councillor Judy Roberts, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Development Strategy, said: “This find gives fantastic insight into the area’s past land use. It is thought the well may have been used for agricultural irrigation purposes for settlements nearby. Archaeological surveys like this are an important part of the process of delivering construction schemes. They help us identify and understand past residents of the area and record them for future generations.

“Other evidence of Bronze Age activity has previously been identified in and around Benson and as far as Wallingford. The excavations undertaken as part of the Benson Relief Road help to further our understanding of this rich landscape and demonstrate how widespread the activity was.”

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