THE discovery of a six-foot mammoth tusk off a British coastline sparked calls for beach-walkers to join a race against time to find rapidly eroding historical treasures.
He said climate change and changing sea-levels had led to “severe erosion” of British coast-lines which has been exposing archaeological finds to beachgoers as well as “severe” natural erosion.
CITiZAN on Twitter said: “We’re at Mersea island taking advantage of the fabulous lows. This site is a real treasure!”
“We’ve left it where it is and taken a GPS location for now, but it was pretty in there so it should stay put.”
The tusk was discovered during a period of particularly low tide, nearly a kilometre off the coast of Mersea Island.
CITIZaN Project Leader Mr Milne, 69, hoped the discovery could inspire more amateur archaeologists to report any “unusual pieces of wood” that could turn out to be archaeological treasures like the mammoth tusk.
“We want to get suitable community groups right the way down the British coast.
“We want them all around the country looking out for coastal heritage assets – they are coastal history before it’s washed away.
“Many coast-lines are eroding rapidly. [Erosion] It’s the agent of discovery and the agent of destruction.”
He explained that his team made the “magical” discovery when the tides were at their lowest point during the year – just after the Spring equinox – and thanks to ideal weather conditions.
“Those low tides work if we have got daylight which magically we had in Mersea and preferably high pressure.
“The team were able to excavate and where able to investigate more sites.”
The project received help from a father and son, both called Daniel French, who ran an oyster business near the excavation site.
“We know the site has severe erosion on a daily basis.
“With the very remarkable help of the community down there, the volunteers down there, we have been recording features which appear magically around and over the last five years features have been appearing which haven’t been seen before.”
These included a Bronze Age trackways which connected Mersea Island and now underwater islands.
Experts from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), which was hosting the CITIZaN project, were conducting research into what the sea-levels were when the trackway was used by people.
On the discovery of the trackway, Mr Milne said: “It was in excess of two metres (below sea-level) at extremely low tides.”
The research would “therefore show what the coast would have looked like which gives us a very different picture of how it was in the past”.
He added: “It also tells you that sea levels have changed and hopefully that engages people with not just the past world but of tomorrow’s world… in 100 to 200 years.
“Coastal change not only informs us about the past but informs us about the future as well, which helps us develop our robust resilience flood strategies.”
The CITIZan project, which has some 20 volunteers across the country, is funded by the Heritage Lottery fund, National Trust and the Crown Estate.