Category Archives: Dig

The Calibration of a Landscape

For the last week the Universities of Birmingham and Ghent have been working hard in the Stonehenge Landscape, carrying out excavations with an interesting twist.

For several years now, Dr. Philippe De Smedt of the University of Ghent has been conducting electromagnetic induction surveys* (EMI) over vast areas of the Stonehenge Landscape. He,  Paul Garwood and Dr. Henry Chapman (both of the University of Birmingham) now want to be able to understand the survey data more clearly by substantiating it through excavation and coring.


Excavation of two of the anomalies in the EMI Survey ©Philippe De Smedt/University of Ghent

Using the data from these surveys, and also coring results from work carried out towards the end of last year, the team are targeting specific features in the landscape for excavation. These features were chosen because of the particular signals they were giving out – some archaeological and some geological. These excavations and comparisons with the survey data will, in turn, support improved interpretation of EMI geophysical data from a calibrated landscape.


Archaeologists from Birmingham and Ghent excavating a large pit ©National Trust/Briony Clifton

The team will be continuing their excavations this week (from Tuesday 4 July until Sunday 9 July) so if you are paying the Stonehenge World Heritage Site a visit, have a wander into the Landscape and see for yourself. On many of the days you will be able to chat to one or two National Trust volunteers who will explain what the team is up to.


Sieving each bucketful ©National Trust/Briony Clifton

*electromagnetic surveying – a type of geophysical survey using electrical conductivity and magnetic susceptibility, measuring properties of the soil and depth levels.

Test Pitting in the Avebury Landscape

Last week, the Living with Monuments team started test pitting* in Avebury, in fields to the north west and the south west of Avebury Henge, in order to gather information about what the landscape might have looked like in the past and how it has been transformed over the millennia.


Archaeologists from the National Trust and the University of Leicester test pitting in the shadow of Silbury Hill ©Mike Robinson

Before the work began, it was assumed that the test pits would essentially show the same thing; however, what they showed instead was how diverse and different the landscape was in the past.


Archaeologist, Mike, from the University of Southampton recording one of the southern test pits ©Mike Robinson 

Previous understanding of past landscapes in Avebury was based upon John Evans’ work in the 1980s, which has been taken as the general model for the area, but we are now realising that it’s much more complex and localised.


Archaeologists at work with buzzards flying above and the smell of oilseed rape drifting over the field. ©Mike Robinson

Many samples have been taken and several specialists visited the site over the days we were digging. It’s very much a work in progress, but at the moment it is showing huge potential and provides an opportunity to rethink some of the ideas we have had about the area.



The teams from the Universities of Southampton and Leicester. ©Mike Robinson

Thanks to the archaeologists, specialists and farmers whose support makes this work possible, and to Mike Robinson for the wonderful photographs. Watch this space for more posts coming soon from Avebury.


*test pits are small trenches – here we had 2m x 1m test pits

Durrington Dig Nominated for Research Project of the Year Award

Mike Parker Pearson celebrating finding the base of the western post hole © National Trust Abby George

Didn’t they do well! Mike Parker and some of our Durrington Dig team in action this summer ©National Trust Abby George

This summer our Durrington Dig in the Stonehenge landscape revealed a major new monument that had been hidden from view for the last 4,500 years beneath the bank of Durrington Walls henge. The dig was a partnership project between the Stonehenge Riverside Project, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project and our team here at the National Trust.

Now Current Archaeology have recognised our team’s achievements by nominating us for their Research Project of the Year Award 2017.

You can find out more about what we got up to and cast your vote by visiting the Current Archaeology website.