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The Sweet Track

Ancient Trackway


The Sweet Track is an ancient causeway in the Somerset Levels, England. It is one of the oldest engineered roads known and the oldest timber trackway discovered in Northern Europe. Tree-ring dating (dendrochronology) of the timbers has enabled very precise dating of the track, showing it was built in 3807 or 3806 BC. It has been claimed to be the oldest road in the world.
The track was discovered in the course of peat digging in 1970, and is named after its discoverer, Ray Sweet. It extended across the marsh between what was then an island at Westhay, and a ridge of high ground at Shapwick, a distance close to 2,000 metres (about 1.24 miles). The track is one of a network of tracks that once crossed the Levels.
Built in the 39th century BC, during the Neolithic period, the track consisted of crossed poles of ash, oak and lime (Tilia) which were driven into the waterlogged soil to support a walkway that mainly consisted of oak planks laid end-to-end. Curves at the bases of the poles show that they were from coppiced woodland.
Due to the wetland setting, the components must have been prefabricated elsewhere.
Most of the track remains in its original location, and several hundred metres of it are now actively conserved using a pumped water distribution system. Other portions are stored at the British Museum, London, while a reconstruction can be seen at the Peat Moors Centre near Glastonbury.
Since the discovery of the Sweet Track, it has been determined that it was actually built along the route of an even earlier track, the Post Track, dating from 3838 BC and so 30 years older.
nix Posted by nix
13th June 2009ce
Edited 13th June 2009ce

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