Around 4,000 year ago, Cardigan Bay was filled not with salt water but with thick forest,, divided by a broad river channel. This landscape was lost to rising sea levels in the early Bronze Age- but now storms have stripped back centuries of accumulated sand and peat to reveal traces of this lost landscape, and the people who inhabited it.
Among the remains of ancient tree stumps and branches, a team of staff and students from The University of Wales Trinity St David, supported by RCAHMW, have recorded human and animal footprints, including tracks from red deer, and most likely horses and sheep
The prints are preserved in the top layer of peat-we think they broadly correspond with the end of the forest in the early Bronze Age or late Neolithic, ‘said Geoarchaeologist Dr Martin Bates. They are particularly concentrated around the river channel. In a previous visit to the site we found a great mass of tracks belonging to humans and adults like those discovered at Happisburgh but there are also tracks further from the channel, in what would have been marshy clearings where humans were probably coming to hunt in the forest. They were clearly exploiting a wide range of habitats.’ He added, the forest was pretty massive-we know it goes inland from the modern beach about 5-6km (3.l-3.7 miles) . It is hard to say how far it extended seawards due to later erosion, but the most recent stretch to be exposed stretches about (l.2 miles) north to south.’
Scatters of burnt stones have been found near some of the footprints, while further evidence of human activity was recorded by RCAHMW’s Deanna Groom and Ross Cook who recently discovered a wattle walkway during a beach walking survey after a storm. Made from short lengths of coppiced branches secured on each side with posts, it would have helped the area’s Bronze Age occupants to navigate their waterlogged home. These traces give a really nice link with the past. In one place there are two very clear footprints belonging to a prehistoric child and one could even stand in those footprints where prehistoric people stood thousands of years ago and look out over what is now sea, but what would then have been the land they lived on.
The Prehistoric wattle walkway. Recently discovered by RCAHMW’s Deanna Groom and Ross Cook.