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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Cheshire archaeology in the spotlight at international conference

Nantwich medieval salt ship

Cheshire’s archaeology is in the spotlight at an international conference in Copenhagen this week.

The conference, entitled the Preservation of Archaeological Remains in Situ, is being held at the National Museum of Denmark, in Copenhagen (from May 23-27), to discuss the latest expertise on how best to conserve and manage our heritage.

Archaeological excavations in Nantwich over the past 30 years have revealed the existence of exceptionally well-preserved organic artefacts.

These have survived due to the waterlogged conditions and include a wealth of wooden objects and structural timbers that date back to the Iron Age.

Nantwich is unique among Cheshire’s historic towns in this respect and the significance of the remains is comparable with those from nationally-important locations, such as York, Carlisle and Lincoln.

Cheshire East Heritage Champion Councillor Rachel Bailey, Cabinet member with responsibility for development management, said: “This is deserved recognition for Cheshire’s Archaeology Service.

“This work ensures that these amazing but fragile artefacts will be studied and preserved for future generations to marvel at and learn from.

“The report will be of invaluable help to other historic environment professionals, who can use it to share knowledge and experience, to evaluate lessons learned and generate new ideas for projects and practices.”

Nantwich was an important centre for salt production and excavations have produced spectacular evidence of well-preserved large Roman timber brine cisterns and huge hollowed-out medieval tree-trunks, known as ‘salt ships’, which served to store brine. Part of one of these salt ships is on display at Nantwich Museum.

Jill Collens, Cheshire East’s lead archaeologist, says “In an attempt to understand more about these waterlogged deposits, the Nantwich Waterlogged Deposits Project has been set up by archaeologists in Cheshire East Council, funded by English Heritage, with work being carried out by environmental consultants SLR Consulting.

“Samples have been taken across the town to establish the precise extent and depth of the deposits at different locations and to understand their current state of preservation.”

The project will provide information on the threat to archaeological deposits from drying out. This will help ensure the survival of the town’s archaeological heritage and its timber-framed buildings through sustainable development.

A management strategy has been produced and the stability of the waterlogged deposits in the town are being monitored and measured over the next three years.

Tim Malim, principal archaeologist at SLR Consulting, will present the latest results of the work in Nantwich at the conference in Copenhagen, where work from sites in the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Canada and Turkey will also be discussed.

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