Before the team reached the prehistoric archaeology we had to excavate the later archaeological levels above.
The site appears to have extensive, mostly settlement-related archaeology from the Late Saxon and medieval period in all four trenches.
Among the Saxon features are ditches, pits, and post holes. The presence of Saxon archaeology is curiously widespread, which begs the question: has the scale of Late Saxon Avebury been underestimated?
Saxon bone comb fragment
The large medieval site seems to include a major boundary running the length of the largest trench (Trench 1) which follows a different alignment to the Saxon ditches. There are also quarry pits and a very deep, square pit (pictured below). At the moment we don’t know the function of this unusual feature.
(c) National Trust/Briony Clifton
It’s with great thanks to the fantastic Living with Monuments Project team, specifically Southampton and Leicester Universities, and to the Arts & Humanities Research Council that we are able to carry out the excavations in and around Avebury.
2019 will bring further updates and more excitement (prehistoric or otherwise!) for you to follow!
Trench 4 diggers! (c) National Trust/Briony Clifton
What was happening along the low lying, dry ground alongside the Winterbourne in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age? And what was happening in the wider landscape at the time Avebury henge was being built over 4,500 years ago?
These questions were in mind when we began excavating the deeply buried prehistoric soils. Excavation was in the chequerboard style (as with Between the Monuments and the Foot of Avebury Down excavations) in order to achieve spatial distribution and density patterns (and, as a bonus, it looks lovely).
©National Trust/Briony Clifton
There was a general, low density scatter of material, and worked flint present in all four trenches.
Much of the flint is from the Early or Later Mesolithic (Early Mesolithic flint is rare for this region). From excavation archives carried out in this area in the 1980s, Mesolithic activity on site was not unexpected; what was unexpected was that the presence of Mesolithic flint work was in all the 2018 trenches.
Among the flint flakes there were a few microliths present, which are characteristic of the Mesolithic period. Microliths are tiny shaped flint flakes which make up composite tools. For the flint fanatics among you it’s possible to recognise the difference between Early Mesolithic microliths and Late Mesolithic ones (four Late Mesolithic ‘rod’ form microliths were uncovered).
The discoveries indicate Mesolithic presence in the form of repeated visits and activity, making use of the area by the river that was dry ground. Early and Late Neolithic worked flint was also present on site. It wasn’t as common, but much of it refits and is in situ!
Come back tomorrow to find out about the later archaeology on site…..
We had the most glorious weather excavating at Avebury in the summer with the Living with Monuments Project team (ignoring one day of tremendous downpours). Site Directors, Profs. Josh Pollard (University of Southampton) and Mark Gillings (University of Leicester) led the three-week dig in July/August to the west of Avebury Henge.
Looking south to Silbury Hill (just to the left tucked away behind the trees) ©National Trust/Nicola Snashall
Why dig there?
Over the last decade there have been excavations in and around Avebury which have helped us better understand the landscape in certain areas. Last year we excavated a large flint scatter a mile east of Avebury Henge as part of the Foot of Avebury Down dig (Interim Report). There have also been excavations along the West Kennet Avenue in recent years where the team gathered data of a Neolithic occupation site there (click here for more).
The floodplain of the Winterbourne to the west of Avebury Henge is less well understood. Previous work here uncovered medieval pits and ditches, parts of the post-medieval water meadow system, Neolithic and Mesolithic worked flint, and Neolithic pottery.
Here was an opportunity to better understand the nature of the Mesolithic to Early Bronze Age periods in this area and their extent between the Winterbourne and the henge monument.
Look out for tomorrow’s update where I’ll be talking about the Prehistoric archaeology from the dig…..