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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Mystery of Iron age 'ghost village'
Aerial shot of the excavation near Askern, South Yorkshire
The settlement is the size of two football pitches
Archaeologists say they are baffled by an Iron Age "ghost village" discovered in South Yorkshire.

Excavations at the site near Doncaster found a 2,600-year-old settlement the size of two football pitches with several roundhouses.

But no evidence of bone or pottery has been found to show that anybody ever lived there.

Experts are now debating whether it was a major ceremonial centre, rather than a political or economic base.

A reconstruction of an Iron Age roundhouse
No bones or pottery were found

Director of excavations, Robert van de Noort, of Exeter University, said: "One theory is that the site was a symbol of the tribes that lived there, to show the world what and who they were.

"There are other examples of this elsewhere in the world.

"It could also have been a religious site, or a fort built in a period of tension which was then abandoned as the tension died away and people moved back to dry land."

The site, on Sutton Common, was first discovered over 100 years ago but has not been properly excavated before now.

Stone ramparts

It is situated within the UK's largest marshland Iron Age fort.

David Miles, chief archaeologist at English Heritage which is part-funding the excavations, said the site would help them understand the Iron Age "both regionally and nationally".

Malcolm Lillie, University of Hull
Excavations found a wheel and a ladder

Among the finds are the remains of a wooden well where archaeologists could have reasonably expected to find artefacts.

But even here there is no evidence of it ever having being used.

Originally protected by marshes, the fort had two large enclosures, one with a grand entrance, linked by what appears to have been a ceremonial walkway.

Earlier excavations revealed stone ramparts, a palisade and waterlogged remains in the ditches, including what looks like a wheel and a ladder.

The entrance to the larger enclosure was highly elaborate and lends credence to the theory that it was more than simply functional.


Click here for more from South Yorkshire
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24 Jul 02 | England
11 Mar 02 | England
06 Mar 02 | England
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