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Sections of the Sweet Track and Post Track, 240m south west of Sunnyside Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Meare, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.172 / 51°10'19"N

Longitude: -2.8185 / 2°49'6"W

OS Eastings: 342875.007598

OS Northings: 141731.712839

OS Grid: ST428417

Mapcode National: GBR MF.6FRB

Mapcode Global: VH7DF.3SBY

Entry Name: Sections of the Sweet Track and Post Track, 240m south west of Sunnyside Farm

Scheduled Date: 19 October 1983

Last Amended: 13 June 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014440

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27981

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Meare

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Details

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.

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 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.

Source: Historic England

Sources

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
Other
SMR entries, Sweet Track 10739, 23552 Post Track 19740,

Source: Historic England

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