A visit to the Peat Moors Centre and the Glastonbury Lake Village Museum
I recently visited the Peat Moors centre near Shapwick, Somerset and the Glastonbury Lake Village museum in Glastonbury. The Peat Moors centre has three reconstructed lron Age round houses, based on the remains of some of those excavated at the Glastonbury Lake village.
The original site was discovered in 1892, by a local doctor and amateur archaeologist Arthur Bulleid. The Glastonbury Lake village as it became known, was a wetland settlement. The waterlogged peat had prevented the normal decay of organic remains such as wood, making it the best preserved prehistoric settlement ever discovered in the UK and giving us a picture of lron Age life. The settlement had existed between 250 BC to 50 BC and could only be reached by canoes. It had about 15 roundhouses and was probably home to 170 people at any one time. A long time before even the existence of the Glastonbury Lake village, people were crossing the marsh by means of wooden trackways, built in different ways depending on the landscape they had to cross. The first of these was known as the Abbot's Way and dates from the Neolithic period, built c. 2,600 BC. About 3,500 years ago the bog surface became wetter and other trackways were made, such as the Meare Heath track. The Sweet track was built in the Bronze Age and dates from c. 1,800 BC. Many items were dropped off the trackway, some accidentally, but others maybe as gifts to the gods, such as a jadeite axe originating from the Alps.
At the Peat Moors centre you can walk inside two of the reconstructed roundhouses. The other one is in a state of collapse, but this has been part of a deliberate experiment to see how long a roundhouse remained standing. The houses have brushwood platforms laid down on peat. These were covered with layers of clay to make the floors.The walls were constructed of large posts interwoven with smaller hazel rods which were then covered in daub. The roofs were thatched but did not have chimney holes as this would have been a fire hazard.
Inside the houses are reconstructed looms, beds and there was even a fire burning when I visited (very smoky but atmospheric). Outside there is an 'ancient' allotment with dye plants such as woad, food crops and medicinal herbs. You can also see reconstructions of some of the trackways. There is the original excavation office which contains a display of archaeological finds and archaeologists tools, including an 'Indiana Jones'style hat hanging on a peg. Outside is an archaeological excavation area, used by visiting schools, where children can make their own 'discoveries'.
in nearby Glastonbury there is a small museum above the Tourist Information centre. This houses good displays of archaeological finds, ranging from worked bone tools, pottery, metalwork and most impressive, a well preserved log boat.
Sadly the Peat Moors centre was shut down at the end of October 2009 due to cutbacks by Somerset County Council.
(Extracts taken from the Peat Moors Centre publicity leaflet)