Excavations by Environment Agency contractors creating a new bird reserve on Teesside have revealed Bronze and Iron Age artefacts – and the remains of a former Roman settlement which was previously unknown.
The discoveries at Greatham Creek are significant as they are the first such remains ever to be found next to the salt marsh on the north bank of the Tees Estuary.
Archaeological survey work undertaken before the start of the habitat creation scheme did not indicate that anything of special interest would be discovered.
However, the outlook changed when Environment Agency contractors, Birse, began digging, giving the project’s archaeologists the chance to assess what was being revealed.
Environment Agency project manager Chris Milburn said:
"An archaeological survey is a key part of any major scheme we undertake to ensure that anything of historic interest is recorded. In this case, we had not expected to find anything unusual, so these discoveries are particularly remarkable."Among the finds are flint tools and pottery fragments, an arrowhead, jet jewellery, flint thumbnail scrapers, Bronze Age blades, ancient burial mounds and the remains of several Roman roundhouses.
Local people are now being invited to look at the finds and discuss their significance with archaeologists at an open event at Greatham Community Centre on Tuesday, 14 May, between 3pm and 7pm.
Environment Agency staff will also be there to update people on the progress of the new Greatham bird habitat, which will be completed in September. Those who attend will also have the chance to choose a name for the new site.
The Greatham scheme is part of an overall strategy for the Tees Estuary being developed by the Environment Agency to protect homes and properties from flooding, while at the same time ensuring that valuable wildlife habitat is maintained.
Much of the inter-tidal habitat around the Tees Estuary is legally protected because it is internationally important for birds. However, some of this vital area is being lost due to a rise in sea level.
To compensate for this loss, the Environment Agency is building a new bank further inland from the existing embankment at Greatham Creek. Part of this can then be breached so the tide can wash in and out of the area, creating a bigger area of mudflat and salt marsh.