In 1996 Southern Water began a scheme to create a reservoir at Testwood, Hampshire, where they could store water for 200,000 people in Southampton, Totton and parts of the Isle of Wight.
The scheme involved excavating 58 hectares (145 acres) of open pasture to create the reservoir, called Little Testwood Lake, and also a natural lake, Testwood Lake, and an artificial lake, Meadow Lake. The reservoir would take water from the River Test, which flows into the Solent, and store it before it was treated and piped to homes.
Archaeologists were called in to see if there were any important remains from the past. Staff from Wessex Archaeology in Salisbury were employed by Southern Water to carry out observations of the excavation in what is known as a watching brief.
During the excavation of Meadow Lake and Testwood Lake the archaeologists made a series of fascinating discoveries that shed important light on the way people lived more than 3,500 years ago.
This included finding the evidence of the earliest bridge to be definitely identified in England, two other bridges, part of one of the earliest sea-going boats ever found and a complete rapier made of bronze.
The Middle Bronze Age, 1,600BC-1,100BC, was a time when the countryside had largely been settled and people lived by growing crops such as wheat and by keeping domestic animals such as cows, sheep and pigs. It was a time when the first permanent settlements were developing, and the communal farming of land by groups was giving way to individual fields and farms. Trade with the continent was increasing.