This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Sections of the Sweet Track, the Post Track and associated remains 500m north east of Moorgate Farm

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Sections of the Sweet Track, the Post Track and associated remains 500m north east of Moorgate Farm

List entry Number: 1014438

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Somerset

District: Sedgemoor

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Shapwick

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 14-Jan-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Jun-1996

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 27978

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Wooden trackways were constructed in the prehistoric period between the Neolithic and the later pre-Roman Iron Age, primarily as communication routes across wet areas of ground and as a means of access to the natural resources of wetlands. Most excavated examples take the form of simple structures of brushwood or hurdlework, although some are of more complex pile, plank and log construction. Wooden trackways normally had a very short active lifespan, leading to the clustering of tracks where a communications route was in existence over a long period; some isolated examples are, however, recorded. Because they were sited in wetland areas, trackways generally became buried by the accumulation of peat soon after their construction, and they are now generally recorded as a result of peat extraction, followed by survey and excavation elsewhere along their length. Approximately 75 examples of either trackways or groups of trackways have been recorded in England. Because of the way in which they are discovered, this is likely to be only a small proportion of those present in the prehistoric period, and some of the recorded examples will have been destroyed or badly damaged by desiccation of the organic components. Over half the recorded examples are from the Somerset Moors. Trackways yield information concerning woodworking, tools, woodland management, and trading or communication routes. They are usually associated with deposits containing well-preserved environmental data such as pollen, beetle, and macro-plant remains, and they may be significant sources of dendrochronological data. As a rare and diverse form of structure used throughout the prehistoric period, all identified prehistoric wooden trackways with surviving archaeological remains, would normally be considered to be of national importance.

Extensive excavations have proved that the Neolithic Sweet and Post Tracks are the oldest known timber trackways in Britain. They are located within the Somerset Levels and Moors, a wetland area of high archaeological value which has seen rapid landscape change over the past 200 years as a result of drainage and intensive peat cutting, endangering the survival and preservation of the tracks due to changes in water levels and environmental conditions. There has been extensive research into the structure and environment of the tracks.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument contains two lengths of Early Neolithic wooden trackway, the Sweet Track and the Post Track, and associated evidence for Mesolithic activity. The tracks, aligned north-south, are located within the Brue River valley. The Sweet Track ran for 2km from the `island' of Westhay in the north to the base of the Polden Ridge in the south. Discovered in 1970, it was excavated in a number of areas between 1970 and 1993. Its basic oak structure consisted of longitudinal rails separating pairs of crossed pegs driven into the unstable surface either side. These supported the raised plank walkway 40cm above the rails. Some planks were held in place by stakes beside or through them. A number of flint, ceramic and wooden artefacts were found during the excavations. The Sweet Track was preceded by an earlier structure, the Post Track. Its structure consisted of a marker post every 3m, with heavy planks of lime or ash between. Rarely pegged, the planks were not raised off the marsh surface. This track appeared to have been dismantled and used to contribute to the Sweet Track and was probably used for access to the Sweet Track during its construction. Extensive pollen, macro-plant, tree ring, woodworking and beetle analysis has been undertaken. Dendrochronological work on the tree rings has shown that the timbers of the Sweet Track were felled in the winter/early spring of 3807/6 BC and that the track was probably built in one episode soon afterwards. The felling date for the Post Track timbers is 3838 BC, a gap of over 30 years. Indications are that the tracks were built over marsh, near to mixed deciduous woodland, and that land nearby was farmed and the woodland was managed. A few weeks work would have supplied the 2000m of rails, 6000 pegs and 4000m of planking. It is suggested that two groups of at least half a dozen adults each could have built the Sweet Track in a day. The radiocarbon dates for the Sweet Track gave a range of between 4050- 3800 BC. Within the area of this scheduling, a 12m stretch of track was excavated in 1972, which included the Post Track. A small research excavation was carried out in the southern field in the winter of 1993, at the base of the Polden Ridge, which revealed the probable south terminal of the Sweet Track some 2m below the surface. Mesolithic flint has been found within this area since the beginning of the century. It has mostly been from chance finds and field walking, producing a range of implements and flakes, including burins, microliths, blades and a core. A number of test pits were excavated in September 1994 on the burtle to the west of the Sweet Track as part of the Shapwick Project; finds included a number of flint flakes and blades. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and posts, though the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Coles, J M, Coles, B J, Sweet Track to Glastonbury, The Somerset Levels in Prehistory, (1986), 41-85
Coles, J M, Orme, B J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in The Sweet Track 1980, , Vol. 7, (1981), 6-11
Coles, J M et al, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Prehistoric Roads and Tracks in Somerset, Eng:3 The Sweet Track, , Vol. 39, (1973), 256-293
Coles, B J, Dobson, M J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Calibration of Radiocarbon dates from the Somerset Levels, , Vol. 15, (1989), 64-69
Coles, J M, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Prehistoric Settlement in the Somerset Levels, , Vol. 15, (1989), 14-32
Coles, J M, Coles, B J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Ten Excavations along the Sweet Track (3200 bc), , Vol. 10, (1984), 4-45
Hillam, J et al, 'Antiquity' in Dendrochronology of the English Neolithic, (1990), 210-219
Hillam, J et al, 'Antiquity' in Dendrochronology of the English Neolithic, (1990), 210-219
Other
Coles, JM & Coles, BJ, Sweet Track to Glastonbury, The Somerset Levels in Prehistory, (1986)
Excavation report forthcoming, Brunning, R A, (1993)
flint scatter, SMR entry 10033, Mesolithic flint finds,
forthcoming pub. in Shapwick Papers, Dr N Thorpe,
Horner, W & Lunniss, R, Field Archaeologists' Report: SAM 399; Infringement Upon, 1988,
SMR entries, Sweet Track 11000,10739,23552, Post Track 10740,
SMR entry 10740,

National Grid Reference: ST 42133 40079

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1014438 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 18-Nov-2017 at 02:46:45.

End of official listing