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Sections of the Sweet Track and Post Track, 650m east of Canada Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Shapwick, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.1619 / 51°9'42"N

Longitude: -2.8255 / 2°49'31"W

OS Eastings: 342371.992483

OS Northings: 140622.281331

OS Grid: ST423406

Mapcode National: GBR MD.75Z0

Mapcode Global: VH7DL.Z242

Entry Name: Sections of the Sweet Track and Post Track, 650m east of Canada Farm

Scheduled Date: 14 January 1976

Last Amended: 22 April 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014439

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27979

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 the well preserved organic remains of sections of two
Early Neolithic timber trackways, the Sweet Track, and its predecessor, the
Post Track.
They are located within the Brue Valley, and aligned north-south. The Sweet
Track ran from Westhay island in the north to the base of the Polden Ridge in
the south, a length of 2km. Discovered in 1970, the Sweet Track was excavated
in a number of areas between 1970 and 1993. Its basic structure consisted of
longitudinal rails separating pairs of crossed pegs driven into the unstable
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
excavation.
Prior to the construction of the Sweet Track, an earlier structure, the Post
Track, was present and 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.
A few weeks work would have supplied the 2000m of rails, 6000 pegs and 4000m
of planking for the Sweet Track. It is suggested that two groups of at least
half a dozen adults each could then have built the track in a day.
The monument is situated between two major lengths of excavated track, sites R
(Railway) and F (Factory), which produced a great quantity of well preserved
wooden artefacts indicative of a settlement site. Investigations within the
area of the scheduling were undertaken in 1981 and 1982.
Extensive pollen, macro-plant, tree ring, woodworking and beetle analysis has
been undertaken. Dendrochronological work shows that the timbers for the
Sweet Track were felled in the winter/spring of 3807/6 BC and that the track
was probably built in one episode soon afterwards. The felling date for the
timbers for the Post Track is 3838 BC, some 30 years earlier. The radiocarbon
dates for the Sweet Track gave a range of between 4050-3800 BC.
A length of the Sweet Track has been reconstructed within the area of the
scheduling, in a part of the Nature Reserve.
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.

The Early Neolithic Sweet and Post Tracks are the oldest known wooden
trackways in Britain, possibly in Western Europe, and have provided a wealth
of evidence about woodland and woodworking activities. 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 preservation
and survival of the tracks due to changes in water levels and environmental
conditions.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Coles, J M, Coles, B J, Sweet Track to Glastonbury, The Somerset Levels in Prehistory, (1986), 41-84
Coles, J M, Coles, B J, Sweet Track to Glastonbury, The Somerset Levels in Prehistory, (1986), 24-113
Coles, J M, Orme, B J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in The Sweet Track 1980, , Vol. 7, (1981), 6-11
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, Coles, B J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Ten Excavations along the Sweet Track (3200 bc), (1984), 4-45
Coles, J M, Coles, B J, 'Somerset Levels Papers' in Ten Excavations along the Sweet Track (3200 bc), (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
SMR entries, Sweet Track 10739, 23552, 11000 Post Track 10740,
SMR entry 10740,

Source: Historic England

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