Our earliest farming ancestors were active in the area from the Late Neolithic and by the Middle Bronze Age (1500 to 1150BC) a network of drainage ditches, field boundaries and trackways was well established. These boundaries were oriented at right angles to the then fen edge and point to the seasonal movement of livestock between the wetter fen and the dryer gravel terraces. A series of rectangular double-ditched “paddocks” (approx 50m by 40m) might indicate enclosures for the temporary holding of cattle.
Bronze Age settlement is evidenced by pits, roundhouses, burial mounds, pottery and inhumations. The quantity of finds is sparse suggesting a small and scattered population.
It is likely that variations in climate affected the attractiveness of the area to local people. During the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (1150BC to 350BC) agricultural activity is more ephemeral. In the Late Iron Age there was a well-defined village referred to by Pryor as the Cat’s Water settlement (now the site of the waste incinerator). Moving into the Roman period, the field system differed from that existing a thousand years before; it featured trackway ditches running north-south.
Adjacent to Fengate we, of course, have the massive wooden causeway at Flag Fen leading to the fen island of Northey. The structure was maintained between 1300 and 900BC. It included a large wooden platform above the waters of the fen. Finds include many Bronze Age and Iron Age swords which appear to have been placed in the water as ritual offerings.
And just 2 miles to the south at Must Farm we have unique evidence of piled roundhouses from the late Bronze Age standing above the marshy waters of the Nene.
A full synthesis of all the evidence gained over the past 50 years is still awaited. The forthcoming report on Must Farm is likely to help in this respect. Meantime, here are a few snippets from some of the more significant contributors.