Avebury Dig – Day 12

As we settle into our last week of digging we have all of our fingers and toes crossed for good weather. We managed to get a full day in today and it was well worth it.

In Trench 3 the features we originally spotted as brown splodges of soil have begun to reveal their secrets. They’re tree throw holes (one of the possible options for what they might be that we were musing about on Dig Day 8).  They were probably originally created during the Mesolithic (when people  were living as hunter-gatherers). They were formed when the soil and chalk were ripped upwards by the roots of trees as they blew over. Gradually the holes that were left silted up with soil (we call this the fill of the feature). During the middle Neolithic flint tools and pottery were dropped or left in what by then would have appeared as only shallow hollows in the ground.

A tree-throw hole in Trench 3. A section has been left through the middle to allow us to record any layers within it.

A tree-throw hole in Trench 3. A vertical section has been cut through the middle  of the feature (on the left) to allow us to see and record the layers of fill within it.

The use of tree throw holes is something we see in other Neolithic sites too. In fact we dug one in 2007 and its not far away! Its in a field known as Rough Leaze  just to the east of the south-eastern part of bank of Avebury henge. And here too we found dense concentrations of stone tools along with middle Neolithic Peterborough Ware pottery. For some reason these already ancient  features seem to have been identified as favorable locations for occupation during the middle Neolithic.

The team digging in Trench 2 moments before they discovered our triple finds hotspot

The team digging in Trench 2 moments before they discovered our triple finds hotspot

Things are progressing well in Trench 2. And we had an excitement-packed five minutes here this afternoon. First a shout went up when we found  a lovely middle Neolithic chisel arrowhead. A couple of minutes later a beautifully worked flint scraper appeared close by. And before we’d had time to finish admiring these two beauties along came another from the very same spot.

The finds cluster from Trench 2 - chisel arrowhead (left), scrapers (middle and right)

The finds cluster from Trench 2 – chisel arrowhead (left), scrapers (middle and right)

In Alexander Keiller’s notes about his excavations in this area he mentioned that finds – particularly scrapers – occurred in clusters. And so it would seem that my grandmother was right – things really do come in threes…

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About Dr Nick

Dr Nick Snashall is Archaeologist for Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. She is fascinated by prehistoric stones, large and small, and their potential for unlocking the secrets of our past. Nick is co-director of Living with Monuments (an AHRC funded research project aiming to address our lack of knowledge of Neolithic settlement and non-monumental activity through targetted fieldwork and archival research into the Avebury region) and Ground -Truthing Stonehenge’s ‘Superhenge’: excavations at Durrington Walls (Current Archaeology's 2017 Research Project of the Year)

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