Bits from Wessex IFA Newsletter October 1996
Full Article at
Bronze Age 'Jetties' Or Causeways At Testwood Lakes, Hampshire
A. P. Fitzpatrick, C. Ellis and M. Allen of Wessex Archaeology

The archaeological potential of river valleys where archaeological remains are blanketed under colluvium and alluvium has again been demonstrated by the excavation of one, perhaps two, waterlogged timber 'jetties' or causeways at Testwood Lakes, Rownhams, Hampshire. The site, which is thought to be of Bronze Age date, The timbers were buried by gravels and it was only when these had been removed that the character of the site, and the fact that there were two alignments was apparent. Until very recently the water level in the development area was high, only being lowered artificially within the last two years to allow the excavation of the artificial lakes. Consequently although desiccation of the site had begun prior to its excavation, the dramatic deterioration seems to have started comparatively recently, and the major timbers at least were still preserved.

The site lies hard against the edge of the floodplain and the mains elements of the site are two broadly parallel alignments of timbers, each essentially comprised of rows of paired timbers', 1.2 to 1.5 metres apart. Most of the vertical timbers had been truncated, but a few which had fallen over in antiquity are almost complete and nearly 4 metres long. One alignment of vertical timbers (structure 351) runs out from the edge of the floodplain and although it is only 1.1 metres long, it projects beyond the first alignment. Both structures were truncated by an old channel, perhaps a former course of the River Blackwater, which now flows c. 250 metres to the east. The tops of the timbers of the second structure are about I metre lower than those of the first one, which hints that they are of different dates rather than being different elements of the same structure.

The upper gravel deposits contain Late Iron Age or Romano British pottery, but the silts beneath one of the structures yielded a complete Middle Bronze Age rapier. There was no trace of any handle or sheath for the weapon, which may date to the 15th century BC. The juxtaposition of the structure and the rapier could be fortuitous, but this is thought to be unlikely and a date in the Bronze Age is supported by other strands of evidence. The well preserved vertical timbers bear extensive traces of metal tool marks comparable to those from Flag Fen, while other types of worked timbers include a single fragment probably from a plank sewn boat.

The presence at Testwood Lakes of a fragment of a cleat, perhaps from a plank sewn boat comparable to those from the broadly contemporary North Ferriby and Dover boats may be related to the discovery of fragments of similar vessels from esturine sites at Caldicot and Goldcliff, Gwent. This suggests that the structures at Testwood Lakes should be seen in the wider coastal context of the Solent and the seaboard of the English Channel. In addition to the palaeo-enviromnental assessment, further studies will also be undertaken on the contemporary sea levels.