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

A Scheduled Monument in Shapwick, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.1569 / 51°9'24"N

Longitude: -2.8294 / 2°49'45"W

OS Eastings: 342093.582216

OS Northings: 140059.538746

OS Grid: ST420400

Mapcode National: GBR MD.7K01

Mapcode Global: VH7DL.X620

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

Scheduled Date: 14 January 1976

Last Amended: 13 June 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014438

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27978

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Shapwick

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Church of England Parish: Polden Wheel

Church of England Diocese: Bath and Wells

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

Source: Historic England

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,

Source: Historic England

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