Some answers, but a lot more questions.
Our penultimate digging day has been the busiest yet for visitors.
We’ve had large specialist groups of visitors as well as individuals visiting today – some people were just passing and stopped to see what all the fuss was about, while others heard about the dig on social media. Everyone was keen to get a look in the trench and hear about the discoveries from the experts.
More than one parent has commented that they are delighted that their children have been allowed inside the fencing to see what we’re doing. It’s been a real pleasure to see children watching, asking questions and totally engaged – future archaeologists in the making?
Visitors have also offered plenty of theories of their own about Durrington Walls and it’s been a delightful experience chatting to everyone and listening to their ideas about what they think Durrington Walls was about. I’m not sure what our archaeologists would make of some of the more unusual theories we’ve heard today but it’s wonderful that people feel relaxed enough to share their ideas with us.
So onto the archaeology … the excavation of the two main post pits continued today and at last we’ve managed to reach the bottom, much to everyone’s relief as we only have one more day of digging time left.
Mike Parker Pearson celebrating finding the base of the western post hole ©National Trust Abby George
In one of our pits at the very base of the post void we found an animal scapular (shoulder blade), probably used as a shovel. This must have been placed here after the timber post was removed but before the pit was filled in (otherwise it would have been crushed by the timber as it thudded into place).
We know that a deposit of animal bone together with a small lump of sarsen stone had also been placed in a small pit cut into the ramp belonging to the western post pit. And in the ramp fill of the other post pit, there was a similar deposit, this time in the form of animal bone accompanied by a lump of iron pyrites. All of these deposits seem to have been deliberately placed here, presumably as some form of votive deposit or offering.
We’ve reached the bottom © National Trust Abby George
We’re now pretty certain that our post pits did contain posts. But there are still some puzzling questions. Firstly, where did the timbers come from? If there were timbers in all of the anomalies showing in the Ground Penetrating Radar survey beneath the bank then there could have been as many as 300 mature, very straight trees to be harvested. The Stonehenge landscape is not thought to have been heavily wooded during the Later Neolithic when the posts were erected– so where did they come from and how did they get here?
Secondly, the timber posts seem to have been removed by vertically lifting, not rocked and pulled over before being removed, so how exactly did they manage this and why? It’s possible that the careful extraction of the posts may have been to allow their reuse when the Southern Timber Circle was reworked into its later form.
The very good news is that because we have the antler pick from the packing material for the eastern post hole (so from the time when the post was put up), and the scapula from the bottom of the post hole from when the timber was removed, we should be able to obtain radio carbon dates for the construction and dismantling of the timbers.
Finally, the find of the day goes to our first British Oblique flint arrowhead of the dig, found in the buried soil in the centre of the trench.
British Oblique flint arrowhead ©National Trust Abby George