Feb 26 2013

Shinewater Park ‘Sacred Water’ site decaying without record

Bronze Age timbers discovered in 1995

Bronze Age timbers discovered in 1995

Pic: Eastbourne Gov.

We reported about the amazing discoveries made at Shinewater Park, and speculated that they were possibly more significant than those found at Flag Fen. Chris Greatorex of the Southeastern Archaeological Service, director of the excavation in 1995, said that:

Artefactual finds and their state of preservation indicate that the Late Bronze Age occupation platform is one of the most important wetland Bronze Age sites in north-west Europe. [source]

He is just talking about the area of the excavation and the dwellings that they unearthed, not the 8 metre wide causeways that off to the South Downs in the West and towards Hastings in the East – potentially miles of ancient thoroughfares across Sacred marshy wetlands. The site has been under threat since 1997 reports British Archaeology!

The Sussex ‘Flag Fen’ decaying with a Record!

A Bronze Age settlement and ceremonial site in East Sussex, similar to Flag Fen, and regarded as one of the most important prehistoric finds of recent years, is decaying, unexplored, because no money can be found to pay for an archaeological investigation.

The site, known as Shinewater, was discovered well-preserved in waterlogged conditions in the marshland east of Eastbourne in 1995, and consists of a timber platform connected to a long causeway running across what was formerly a lake. Numerous bronze objects were found, some with wooden handles intact, apparently thrown into the lake as votive offerings as at Flag Fen, together with a wealth of other organic and environmental remains.

However, only a small amount of archaeological work has taken place at Shinewater – a two-week rescue dig on the main platform, and some further work in the surrounding area – as the site was discovered unexpectedly by workmen constructing flood-storage lakes for Eastbourne Borough Council. As the sites existence had not been foreseen by East Sussex County Council, no provision was made in advance for archaeology, and as a result the developer – the borough council – was not obliged to pay when the site was found.

An attempt has been made to preserve what remains of the main platform in air-tight, waterlogged conditions by wrapping it in a vertical plastic skirt, but some experts doubt the attempt will be successful even in the short term. Meanwhile, the prospects of an emergency rescue excavation remain distant, as no organisation has offered the money to pay for it.

Maisie Taylor of Flag Fen said the site would decay `quickly‘, despite the plastic skirt, because the excavation of the new lakes had lowered the water-table, and this would cause the deposits to dry out from the bottom up before long.She said:

It was a very important site with fantastic finds in amazing condition, but I’m resigned now to the fact that they’re going to argue about it until it falls to pieces.

English Heritage is currently monitoring the underground conditions at the site, but Peter Kendall, English Heritage’s Inspector for the area, said he feared Ms Taylor `might be right‘ that the site was rapidly deteriorating. However, he said English Heritage had no funds to pay for excavation this year, and no plans to do so in the future.

It is true, we are left with a funding gap – because if we don’t pay for it, who will?

According to Ms Taylor and Mr Kendall, the possibility that such a site existed should have been predicted; but Andrew Woodcock, the County Archaeologist (retired – ed.), said that no other similar remains were known in the area, and that the site was invisible from the surface. He said:

We did not make a mistake. The machinery swung into operation very quickly to safeguard the site after it was discovered, and we keep our fingers crossed that the money is going to come from somewhere.

British Archaeology, No. 24, May 1997

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Shinewater Park ‘Sacred Water’ site decaying without record”

  1. Leolaon 14 Jul 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Can I just say what a comfort to find someone that truly understands what they are discussing on
    the net. You actually realize how to bring a problem
    to light and make it important. More and more people must check
    this out and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you’re not more popular because you definitely possess the gift.

  2. Garyon 18 Jul 2013 at 10:15 am

    Thank you Leola,

    Such a site of potentially enormous scientific, archaeological and cultural significance should be explored to its fullest in our opinions. It is a shame that the finance and the will are simp0ly not present to maximise the benefit of the site. It was proposed some years back that a visitor centre be built a the whole area should begin to be developed into a tourist attraction. Sadly.. that has not occurred :(

    We can only hope!

    Gary xxx

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