London: The Bronze Age man's lunch was a bowl of nettle stew, revealed what is being claimed as the biggest find of intact artefacts.
   
Archaeologists say the finding of the largest collection of artefacts in the Cambridgeshire Fens in Britain actually gives an astonishing insight into life in the area more than 3,000 years ago.
   
Wicker baskets, wooden sword handles and fragments of textiles survived because they were immersed in deep layers of peat and silt. A bowl, with a wooden spoon wedged into what was analysed to what could have been their favourite dish, was also discovered.
   
Six boats which had been hollowed out of oak tree trunks were in such good condition that the wood grain can be seen clearly, as can signs of repairs by their owners. One of the boats is 4 metres long, with the largest one standing at 8.3 metres long.
   
And bronze swords and spears, which were possibly thrown into the river in perfect condition as votive offerings.
   
David Gibson, head of Cambridge University's archaeological unit, said the discoveries were internationally important. "One canoe would be great. Two, exceptional. Six almost feels greedy," he said.
   
Mark Knight, the unit's senior project officer, added: "We talk about Bronze Age landscapes and it always feels as if we're looking through a very narrow window, with the curtains partly drawn or slightly misted over.”
   
"Now it's as though someone's opened the windows and we're seeing so much more."
The artefacts were found buried four metres under an ancient watercourse along the southern edge of the Flag Fen Basin, on a site to the east of Peterborough.
   
The excavation, which has been funded by bricks and cement supplier Hanson under the terms of planning regulations, is expected to continue for several years. And the firm's involvement meant archaeologists could dig down to unprecedented depths.
   
Knight added: "So we get to see entire buried landscapes. Some of our colleagues try to find ways of getting to the bottom of the North Sea (while) we get an early view of the same submerged space, but via the humble brick."

Agencies