‘Plastic Age’: Researchers find 2,000 items of plastic litter left behind by visitors at Iron Age site; Details

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January 7, 2021 7:44 PM

Welsh Pembrokeshire Coast National Park has an Iron Age village where Castell Henllys is a site marking the home of a family that lived there 2,000 years ago.

The site of historical importance is well maintained and is cleaned regularly. (Image: Welsh Pembrokeshire Coast National Park)

‘Plastic Age’: Plastic use is rapidly increasing all over the world, despite multiple warnings from experts. And it is probably what would define the modern sites when future excavations take place. But for now, plastic has made its way to historic sites also, a new study has found. Welsh Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in the United Kingdom has an Iron Age village where Castell Henllys is a site marking the home of a family that lived there 2,000 years ago and included a community of about 100 people indulged in the production of food.

About the Castell Henllys site

The site is a rural hillfort and consists of four roundhouses that have been reconstructed. The roundhouses are circular structures, having roofs in the shape of cones made of straw and wood. These structures had been reconstructed by researchers and archaeologists with the same materials that would have been by the villagers during the Iron Age.

Extensive excavations were conducted at the site and the post holes and foundation trenches of the original structures were used to reconstruct the roundhouses. This marks the only site in the UK where this has been done. The site has been open to the public for nearly four decades, indicating that the restructured roundhouses have been sturdy for a long time, demonstrating the effectiveness of designs followed in the pre-historic times.

Two roundhouses – the Earthwatch house and the Cook house – had been replaced a few years ago.

The presence of plastic

Researchers saw these roundhouses as a unique opportunity after it stood for over three decades and entertained numerous visitors. They started as an experiment to look into the decay and degradation of building materials over time, but instead found a whopping 2,000 items of plastic at the sites. The study regarding this has been published in Antiquity journal and has been accessed by Financial Express Online.

The site of historical importance is well maintained and is cleaned regularly. However, small plastic items left by the visitors managed to hide in the dark areas. It is noteworthy that one of the roundhouses regularly witnesses school children eating lunches.

Researchers of the study highlighted how the study demonstrates plastic being a major source of concern even for the terrestrial environment, and not just confined to being a problem for marine life. Utensils, straws, plastic food wrap, bottle caps, wrappers of straws and candies as well as plastic bags were among the pile of plastic items found at the site.

This highlights how dependent today’s world has become on the use of plastic. Had most of the students’ lunches been packed after foregoing the use of plastic, the site would have considerably less amount of plastic litter. The research has again highlighted how the convenience of human beings is causing a major problem for the natural environment.

At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that each time period is defined with the element that is used the most during that time and remains intact by the time the excavations occur. Now, with this research in a controlled environment of material collected in about 35 years, it has come to light how plastic dominates the manner in which people of today live their lives, complete with a variety of items having been prepared by the material. This means that at a later time, there is a very high possibility that the late 20th and early 21st century would be referred to as “Plastic Age”. However, this particular material stands for its nature-damaging capabilities, and researchers can only hope that the aggressive calls now being made in favour of more biodegradable and nature-friendly material can make a difference and move the humankind away from plastic.

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