7000-year-old footprints and ancient traps discovered in the Severn Estuary

7000-year-old footprints and ancient traps discovered in the Severn Estuary

7,000-year-old footprints and ancient traps were discovered during work by University of Reading archaeologists in the Severn Estuary.

The footprints are thought to belong to fishermen living 7000 years ago.

The Severn Estuary is the estuary of the River Severn, which flows into the Bristol Channel between South West England (from North Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire) and South Wales (Cardiff, Newport to Monmouthshire).

The Mesolithic discoveries from the study, funded by the National Geographic Society, will shed light on the lives of hunter-gatherer communities living in Britain.

Experts say fishing traps more than 7,000 years old, possibly used to catch eels and other fish, were made of willow willows woven around wooden stakes to form a V-shaped fence in the bed of an ancient river channel.

7000-year-old footprints and ancient traps discovered in the Severn Estuary
Photo: University of Reading

Emeritus Professor Martin Bell, of the University of Reading who led the excavations, said: “The discovery is particularly important because, within the channel containing the fish traps, low tides have revealed hundreds of footprints of people, animals and birds.

“Stormy conditions in September and October 2023 revealed the best exposures of the footprints for many years.

“The dig team had to work quickly to record as much as possible during the period of low spring tides before they became covered by the sea and encroaching sand.”

Mr Bell hopes the footprints, which date back to a time before the arrival of farming, provide unique insights into the community that lived in Britain at that time.

He added: “Many footprints belonged to children, some as young as four, showing that they played an active part in the daily life of Mesolithic communities.

“In places, lines of footprints moving in both directions mark footpaths leading from campsites at the island edge to the channel where the traps were located.

“The footprints show how individual camps and activity areas are connected as parts of a living landscape.”

Cover Photo: University of Reading

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