Peterborough Bronze Age boats conservation begins

Emma Turvey works on Bronze Age long boat; Bronze Age long boat in quarry; Ian Panter with boat in cold storage at Flag Fen The conservation is taking place at Flag Fen, a Bronze Age site near Peterborough

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Eight 4,000-year-old boats found in a quarry in Cambridgeshire are being preserved with the same techniques used on the Mary Rose Tudor warship.

The vessels were discovered by archaeologists as they excavated a section of a quarry at Must Farm near Peterborough in 2011.

The boats are being kept in cold storage at Flag Fen, where they will be sprayed with a special wax.

The two-year project will stop the ancient timbers from degrading.

The technique prevents the boats from drying out too quickly and enables them to be kept in one piece.

Previously log boats have been cut into pieces for conservation.

It is hoped the process will reveal more about the Must Farm log boats, one of which is almost 30ft (9m) long.

'Intentionally sunk'

Visitors to Flag Fen will be able to watch conservators at work, with the aim of eventually putting the boats on public display in glass cabinets.

Ian Panter, principal conservator at the York Archaeological Trust, designed the conservation strategy for the boats.

He said: "It's the first time we've had this number of log boats on one site.

"To undertake the conservation with the public able to view it and watch the process develop over the next few years is a great opportunity to see it in action.

"We're keeping the boats wet and cold to help keep everything as it is - so there's no biological activity to digest through the timber - to reduce decay of the wood."

Mr Panter said he believed the boats were used for fishing and transporting cargo along the River Nene.

Carbon-14 tests will be carried out to give precise dates of when the boats were made and could also reveal why they were abandoned in the river.

"I think they had been intentionally sunk but we don't know why," Mr Panter said.

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