A 5,000-year-old ritual site has been uncovered during the onshore groundworks to connect a £2.5bn offshore wind farm in Suffolk to the National Grid.
The discovery of the Neolithic trackway, dating from 2,300BC, has forced Scottish Power Renewables to re-route the installation of underground cables connecting the 102 turbine East Anglia One wind farm to the grid.
Diggers uncovered the skull of an extinct species of wild cattle which was carbon dated to 4,300BC and which experts believe could have been used as a totem. By the time the trackway was built the skull was already 2,000 years old, suggesting it was a “significant item” according to archaeologists.
Natural water springs, which are still evident in the area near Woodbridge, could be the reason why the region was chosen as a ritual site more than 4,000 years ago.
tanged arrow head
Scottish Power Renewables East Anglia One project director Charlie Jordan said: “One of the unanticipated legacies of our windfarm will be a greater understanding of Suffolk’s history.
“In the last two years our project has been responsible for uncovering artefacts from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Medieval periods, but it seems that the best has been saved until last.
“We have worked closely with the archaeologists on a daily basis, and we have even made changes to our plans to ensure the sites can be fully explored.”
close up trackway
The onshore cable route is 37km long and runs from Bawdsey, under the River Deben and around the north of Ipswich to the new onshore substation.
The main construction work is divided into packages and includes open cut works, horizontal direct drilling and cable installation.
Offshore construction started earlier this year and turbine foundations are currently being installed. Towers and blades will be fitted next year and the project should be operational in 2020.
Wardell Armstrong archaeologists associate director Richard Newman said: “Undoubtedly this is a site of international archaeological significance. It is exceptionally rare to find preserved organic materials from the Neolithic period, and we will learn a great deal from this discovery.
“Some of the wood is so well preserved we can clearly see markings made by an apprentice, before a more experienced tradesman has taken over to complete the job. Initially some of the wooden posts looked like they were maybe one hundred years old, and it is incredible to think that they are over 4,000 years old.”
auroch skull in situ