Durrington Dig 2016 – Thursday 4 August

Progress is being made on what is turning out to be a fascinating narrative here at Durrington Walls Henge. The two pits the site team uncovered at the beginning of the dig gave off very different signals in the geophysics and, as it turns out, have conceivably been dug for very different reasons.

So what were these pits for? The answer is curiously complicated.


This pit/ramp gave off a strong, well-defined signal in the geophysics. Here it has been half-sectioned, with a ramp leading down to the pit, perhaps originally dug to guide in a timber post.

The pit in the photo above has led the team to ask, ‘was a post ever erected here?’ The archaeology had so far indicated two main theories:

  • one is that the pit and ramp were dug, a timber post was intended but never erected in the pit, and the henge bank of Durrington Walls was constructed over the pit as it was left, or
  • the pit and ramp were dug, a timber post was erected, then removed, then the henge bank was constructed over the top.

The team needs to continue working on this feature to see if the form of the ramp at the pit edge is sharp or crushed (by a timber post), if there is any packing material and if the base of the pit has a ‘kick back’ as the post was removed. Only then might we be able to see if the intended post was ever put up.

The other pit tells a different story.


Again, further work needs to be done, but one theory is that this pit (photo above) may have contained a post that decayed in situ. When this happened, material fell into the void and formed what is known in archaeology as a post pipe. Normally this material would be soil, but because the henge bank was constructed over the pits, it is possible that the bank material has formed the post pipe.

There is a lot more that this pit can tell us – possibly even about the construction process of Durrington Walls henge. More on that intriguing theory later in the blog.


The two pits being excavated. Bottom right – the pit and ramp which may or may not have contained a timber post (the other half of the fill has been removed). Top left – the pit which may have contained a post that decayed in situ in the henge bank.




3 thoughts on “Durrington Dig 2016 – Thursday 4 August

  1. brianjohn891

    Nick — how do you know that these elongated pits are not extraction pits from which elongated large sarsens have been taken, rather than being assumed to be pits dug to receive either standing stones or large posts? When you are removing a large recumbent stone from a field (as I have done) the first thing you do is dig a pit at one end, deep enough to get beneath the stone, so that you can get your levers in. Once you have done that, you can start levering the stone up and out of the recess in which it sits…….. and as you raise the “monolith” bit by bit, you chuck in packing stones or rubble beneath it so that it does not settle back into its original position. You then use your levers wherever you can along the length of the stone, inserting packing stones all the time, until it is clear of the ground. Then you roll it or drag it away.

    1. Dr Nick

      Hi Brian
      the sequence is very clear in the stratigraphy on site and there are no natural sarsen hollows present (unlike for instance what was found in the excavation of the Cuckoo Stone in 2007). Its also clear that there were never stones in the pits or the ramps(which are both very definitely cut features i.e. dug) as the removal of large stones leaves very distinctive crushing in the surrounding areas (in this case that would mean on the side of the pits and the ramps). And this is entirely absent both here and in the (earlier) midden deposits which surround the features.

      I hope this helps,



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