East Anglia ONE cable dig unearths an extremely valuable archaelogical site in Suffolk

#renewable energy #Scottish Power #Iberdrola projects #wind power

Excavation works for the burying of the cable to connect the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm with the British National Grid have exposed relics from the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and the Roman, Anglo-Saxon and even Medieval eras. Most interesting without doubt are the remains of a Neolithic roadway consisting of a series of wooden planks, and dating back to 2,300 B.C.

"The first thing that comes to mind when you imagine an offshore wind farm is not exactly the image of hundreds of archaeologists combing through 60 hectares of Suffolk countryside with metal detectors. This highlights the magnitude of the efforts needed to create an energy project as important as that of East Anglia ONE", explains Joanna Young, Head of Interest Group Relations at ScottishPower Renewables.

Supported by the British subsidiary of Iberdrola as part of its pioneering energy project, this is one of the largest archaeological excavations in Europe, exposing archaeological remains that provide pertinent information on the history of Suffolk County.

"We decided to invest in underground cables to carry energy that will be generated by the turbines of the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm and sent to the national electricity grid through a new electricity conversion station in Bramford. Instead of building power transmission towers, the project involves deploying 37 Km of cables under ground, roads, rivers, and rail lines", notes Joanna Young.

In addition to evidence of homes and workplaces, a wide variety of ceramic fragments have been found, along with tools, coins, and other pieces of great archaeological value, such as face-shaped jars glazed in green, very popular in the mediaeval homes of thirteenth-century England.

"The project is a great example of the collaborative and efficient work between ScottishPower Renewables, the Suffolk County Council, and Wardell Armstrong, the company that oversees the archaeological work. Logistically, it has been a challenge," acknowledges Cllr. Matthew Hicks, a cabinet member of the Suffolk County Council for Environment and Public Protection.


One of the unexpected legacies of the East Anglia ONE wind farm will be a greater understanding of the history of Suffolk. In the last two years, the Iberdrola group has found remains from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Medieval periods, and has made changes to the planned cable route ensure the site can be fully explored.

Richard Newman, associate director of Wardell Armstrong, the company responsible for the dig, said: "This is certainly a site of international archaeological significance. It is rare to find such well preserved organic materials from the Neolithic period, and we will learn a great deal from this discovery." Newman also remarked: "Some of the wood is so well preserved we can clearly see the marks of an apprentice, before a more experienced tradesman took over to complete the job. Initially, the wooden posts looked as through they were about 100 years old, and it is incredible to think that they are over 4,000 years old."

It is rare to find such well preserved organic materials from the Neolithic period, and we will learn a great deal from this discovery

According to Kate Batt of Suffolk Country Council Archaeological Service, organic finds of this age are so rare and vulnerable that they needed to be kept wet during the dig. "Every night, the area was flooded, and archaeologists constantly sprayed the artefacts to keep the trackway in perfect condition while they worked. The wood and other artefacts have been sent for further analysis, and leading experts on the Neolithic period have already visited to help us build a full picture of activities on the site. We hope these important artefacts will be displayed by local museums when the study is complete," said Batt.

Since the project began, around 400 archaeologists from Archaeological Solutions (Bury St Edmunds), Archaeology Wales and Cotswold Archaeology have been working at the different sites.