Summerlands 3: Lake Village Glastonbury

Lake Villages 1: Glastonbury BC 250 – AD 2017

The smooth  horizontal lay of the fields stretches on, continuous to the horizon and beyond that continues onto the largely undifferentiated sea of the Severn Estuary.

Walking the field, lying flat, eyeing the horizontal surface, it is impossible to see any clue suggesting the structures that once stood here and now lie encased in the suffocating, preserving embrace of peat.

It must have been some highly developed visual sensitivity or intuition which led Arthur Bulleid to start digging here in 1892. His excavation revealed a site which is as important to our understanding of Iron Age culture as other well known sites such as Stonehenge.  The peculiar qualities of wet bogland peat mean that in the lake village which Arthur Bulleid unearthed, wooden objects are preserved which have elsewhere perished.

The village of around forty timber and wattle and daub roundhouses rested on a layer of timber and brushwood, kept in place by numerous small piles and overlaid with a layer of clay, raised in the middle of each hut to form a hearth. Noone has been able to explain why this village was built. Was it for security or for the protection of  and accessing of the resources of the wetlands ?

It is known that the village was reached by canoe (an example of wich can bee seen at the Glastonbury Lake Village Museum) and that iron smelting took place in the village. Numerous everyday Iron Age objects have been excavated, many of which can be seen in the museums in Glastonbury and Taunton. These range from saws, chisels, chopping boards and ladles to the decorative metal work found on jewellery and the famous ‘Glastonbury bowl’.

What is now a field would have been marshland and bog much like the wetland marshes at Ham Wall and Shapwick. It takes little imagination to conjure up the everyday sounds of domestic life and work emanating from the village but what of music? We know that Celtic peoples of the time had a variety of musical instruments among which was the great metal horn. Possibly this could have been heard across that marshes – it could have been calling people to return home, warning of an approaching enemy or used as part of a ritual performance.

This piece is developed from the imagined sounds of such a horn, the sound of the human voice and percussion.

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