Discoveries unearthed during the building of the Lincoln Eastern Bypass have revealed evidence of 400,000 years of human history.
In all, almost 270,000 artefacts have been found, during the construction of the new five-mile route, representing every archaeological period from the Palaeolithic era to present day.
Each discovery is now undergoing post-excavation assessment and analysis, with funding from Lincolnshire County Council. That process could take up to five years, after which artefacts will return to the county for the benefit of local residents.
The investigation is probably the largest single archaeological project ever carried out in Lincolnshire, involving discoveries of national and international importance.
A team of up to 100 archaeologists were involved in the original fieldwork, painstakingly revealing archaeological treasures between the River Witham and Washingborough Road.
The discoveries include a Neolithic and Bronze Age riverside ceremonial landscape, a Bronze Age oak log-boat and a Middle Saxon Christian cemetery with more than 750 human skeletons.
Preliminary analysis has suggested that a copper axe and two of the burials date from the Chalcolithic or “Copper Age”. This is of particular significance as, unlike on the European mainland, the Chalcolithic is a period largely unrepresented in Britain.
Archaeologists also unearthed Mesolithic and Neolithic flint tools, part of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery, a possible Iron Age roundhouse, high-status Roman buildings and pottery kilns, Medieval monastic grange including on-site beer and bread making, Post-medieval farm buildings and a complex water management system.
Project co-leader Dr Peter Townend said: “Following the successful completion of the archaeological fieldwork along the route of the Lincoln Eastern Bypass, Network Archaeology has started on the post-excavation phase. The first stage is well underway, and Network Archaeology has a dedicated team of in-house archaeologists collating and assessing the data.
“We’ve also engaged more than 20 nationally recognised experts – each one a specialist in a particular type or period of artefact – to examine, catalogue and date each individual find.”
Besides uncovering and cataloguing the finds, the project is aiming to give the public as much access to them as possible.
Peter explained: “A wide-ranging programme of outreach has already given Lincolnshire communities many opportunities to view some of the incredible artefacts and results from the bypass fieldwork. These have included museum displays, weekly updates in the local media and a number of open days, which have been attended by more than 2,000 people.
“Following the completion of the analysis, the results will be distributed in both academic and popular publications, while the finds and records will be returned to Lincolnshire County Council to be curated by the Lincolnshire Museum Service.”