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Photograph: Freeimages.com / Stephen J. Sullivan

The discovery of a largely intact, 3,000-year-old wheel at a site dubbed Britain's Pompeii has prompted a reassessment of Bronze Age technology, archaeologists and historians said on Friday.

The 1-metre diameter wooden wheel was found in fenland at the Must Farm site near Peterborough in eastern England, where Bronze Age wooden roundhouses are believed to have plunged into a river after a fire, said the government-backed Historic England, which funds the excavation of the site.

The discovery of the first complete example of a wheel of this age "poses challenges to our understanding of the Late Bronze Age in terms of the technology available 3,000 years ago," it said.

"Among the wealth of other fabulous artefacts and the new structural remains of roundhouses built over this river channel, this site continues to amaze and astonish us with its insight into prehistoric life, the latest being the discovery of this wooden wheel," said archaeologist Kasia Gdaniec.

"This remarkable but fragile wooden wheel is the earliest complete example ever found in Britain," said Duncan Wilson, Historic England's chief executive.

"The existence of this wheel expands our understanding of late Bronze Age technology and the level of sophistication of the lives of people living on the edge of the Fens 3,000 years ago," Wilson said.

The Must Farm site, known as "Peterborough's Pompeii," contains the remains of roundhouses that are believed to be the best preserved Bronze Age dwellings found in Britain.

"Other exciting finds include a wooden platter, small wooden box and rare small bowls and jars with food remains inside, as well as exceptional textiles and Bronze Age tools," Historic England said.

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