Sections of the Sweet Track and Post Track, 240m south west of Sunnyside Farm
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Mendip (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- ST 42865 41721
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
The Sweet Track and Post Track are the earliest known timber trackway sites in Britain, possibly in Western Europe. The organic preservation is excellent providing conditions for further environmental studies. They are located within the wetlands of the Somerset Levels and Moors, an 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.
The monument contains sections of two Early Neolithic wooden trackways, the
Sweet Track and the Post Track, located south west of Sunnyside Farm and
Paddock Rhyne and immediately to the east of Shapwick Road.
The tracks are located within the Brue Valley and ran from Westhay `island' in the north to the base of the Polden Ridge in the south, a distance of 2km. Discovered in 1970, they were excavated in a number of areas between 1970 and 1993.
The basic structure of the Sweet Track consisted of longitudinal rails separating pairs of crossed pegs driven into the unstable marsh surface either side. These supported the raised oak plank walkway 40cm above the rails. Some planks were held in place by a peg through or beside them. A number of flint, ceramic and organic artefacts were found during the excavations.
Prior to the construction of the Sweet Track there was an earlier structure, the Post Track, which was probably used for access to the Sweet Track during its construction. The Post Track consisted of a marker post every 3m with heavy planks of lime or ash connecting them. Rarely pegged, the planks were not raised off the marsh surface. It appeared to have been dismantled and used to contribute to the Sweet Track.
Extensive pollen, macro-plant, tree ring, woodworking and beetle analysis has been undertaken. Dendrochronological work shows that the Sweet Track timbers were felled in the winter or spring of 3807/6 BC and that it was probably built in one episode soon afterwards. Tree ring evidence for the Post Track gives a felling date of 3838 BC, some 30 years earlier. The radiocarbon dates for the Sweet Track gave a range of between 4050-3800 BC.
Investigation within the monument revealed deep peat cover during a programme to locate the tracks in 1980. Further to the south at Wallway Farm, excavation in 1982 revealed well preserved large timbers, and evidence that the Sweet Track had been adapted to cope with particularly wet conditions.
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.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Coles, J M, Coles, B J, Sweet Track to Glastonbury, The Somerset Levels in Prehistory, (1986), 41-113
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, , Vol. 64, (1990), 210-219
SMR entries, Sweet Track 10739, 23552 Post Track 19740,
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 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing