While Preparing For Road Construction In England, Workers Just Happened Upon A Wooden Well From The Bronze Age

Published May 10, 2024

In addition to the 2,700-year-old well, archaeologists also found struck flint, animal bone, and pottery used for storage and waste.

Bronze Age Wooden Well

Oxfordshire County CouncilThe Bronze Age well was in good condition, perhaps because of the waterlogged earth that surrounded it.

While conducting a routine archaeological survey ahead of roadwork in England, archaeologists came across a stunning artifact buried deep in the earth: a wooden well from the Bronze Age.

Despite its age, the well is in surprisingly good condition — and may shed light on Bronze Age settlements that existed in the area several millennia ago.

Discovering The Well In Oxfordshire

According to a statement from the Oxfordshire County Council, the wooden well was found during archaeological excavations in the area ahead of the construction of a new road. As archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology conducted a “strip, map, and sample” exercise to detect any artifacts, they suddenly came across a wooden object buried deep in the muddy earth.

“When investigating what appeared to be a standard pit for the site, the archaeological team started exposing the remains of a preserved wooden post driven vertically into the ground,” Oxford Archaeology Senior Project Manager John Boothroyd said. “Further excavation revealed that these posts formed the uprights of a wattle structure that lined the edge of the pit.”

Boothroyd added: “Despite the extremely challenging conditions, the team were able to expose and fully record the well in the ground.”

Bronze Age Well In Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire County CouncilThe well was discovered during a “strip, map, and sample” exercise to detect artifacts.

In addition to the well, archaeologists also found struck flint, animal bone, and pottery used for storage and waste during their survey. However, the wooden well is definitely the crowning discovery of the excavation.

Well-preserved wooden structures from the Bronze Age are very rarely found, making the discovery especially exciting. Archaeologists believe that the well probably survived because of the waterlogged earth around it.

As the county council notes, archaeologists were able to digitally record the well before they “gently dismantled it by hand.” Next, the wooden parts — and the soil around it — will be carefully studied so that researchers can learn more about the Bronze Age people who once used the well.

A Bronze Age Settlement In Oxfordshire

It’s possible that the well was used for “agricultural irrigation” for Bronze Age settlements nearby. And, indeed, archaeologists have found evidence of Bronze Age activity in the area before. They’re hoping that the well and the soil around it will help shed more light on what these settlements were like.

Interior Of The Oxfordshire Well

Oxford ArchaeologyThe interior of the wooden well. It’s one piece of a larger story about Bronze Age settlement in the area, and researchers suspect it was used for “agricultural irrigation” for settlements nearby.

“The specialist soil samples that were collected will also help establish what the surrounding landscape would have been like, and the intensity to which it was settled, when the well was actively being used,” Boothroyd explained.

And the wood from the well will also be studied in order to determine “the type of wood used, and if any evidence of the tools used to cut and shape the timbers can be determined.”

As such, the Bronze Age well — long buried deep in the earth — will help paint a fuller picture of what life was like in the area during the Bronze Age.

“This find gives fantastic insight into the area’s past land use,” Councillor Judy Roberts, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Development Strategy, said.

“Archaeological surveys like this are an important part of the process of delivering construction schemes. They help us identify and understand past residents of the area and record them for future generations.”

After reading about the well-preserved Bronze Age well discovered in Oxfordshire, discover the stories behind some of history’s oldest structures. Then, discover the disturbing meaning behind the popular children’s nursery rhyme “London Bridge Is Falling Down.”

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "While Preparing For Road Construction In England, Workers Just Happened Upon A Wooden Well From The Bronze Age." AllThatsInteresting.com, May 10, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/bronze-age-well-oxfordshire. Accessed May 23, 2024.