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Ben Thornes

Poole Harbour – An Iron Age Port

Tuesday 15th July 2014

Before the Romans, it was assumed that there were no ‘built’ ports in Britain, and that when ships arrived, they beached on the sea shore or river bank. However an artificial Iron Age mole or jetty in Poole Harbour has been discovered, the first ever found.

In past years, Poole Harbour has had less attention paid to it than surrounding sites of archaeological interest, such as Hengistbury Head or Lulworth Cove, despite numerous finds and extensive occupation areas recorded since the 1950s. Much more came to light when the south Dorset oilfields were scaled up by British Petroleum in the late 1980s. Recent work has provided a clearer context for these finds, and has shown the existence of major prehistoric harbour constructions on a scale hitherto unknown along the Channel coast.

As Poole Harbour lies roughly halfway along the south coast, it provides a starting point for the shortest crossing to the northern Coast of France; Normandy is just 110km away as the gull flies. Today, Poole boasts one of the largest natural harbours in the world. In later pre-historic times the sea level was up to 3m lower than it is today, with corresponding differences in the shoreline. In 1998, to promote new research, the Poole Maritime Trust established the Poole Harbour Heritage Project (PHHP) with the aim of producing a new history of the harbour. One of the first jobs for the PHHP was a re-assessment of the Cleavel Point area in the southern part of the Harbour here a submerged structure known as the known as the Green Island Causeway links the archaeology of the modern shore with South Deep, one of the main channels in the Harbour.

Find out more about the Green Island Causeway through the attached article written by Mike Markey and Bournemouth University academics Eileen Wilkes and Timothy Darvill OBE.

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