Category Archives: Living with Monuments

Foot of Avebury Down Dig – Day 17

To add to the time pressures which seem to come with every excavation, yesterday after I had left site a post hole (previously thought to be a possible pit, but you never know until you excavate!) was discovered, complete with antler tine which can give us another good radiocarbon date.

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The post hole, dark in the section where the original post was (left) and light with post packing to hold the post in place (right). Photo taken with the helpful shadows of three archaeologists ©National Trust/Briony Clifton

 

The site has now been backfilled and the turfs have been replaced after a great effort all round. It has been a fascinating few weeks which has exceeded all expectations, with intriguing pit discoveries, the last minute post hole, some lovely scrapers and arrowheads, auroch bones and loads of flint flakes spread all over the place with densities not seeming to dwindle.

The team has worked so hard and it has been really great meeting so many interested students from the Universities of Southampton and Leicester. Well done to Josh, Mark, Alistair and Ben for keeping the team strong, happy, fed and watered. Time for a well deserved break!

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Foot of Avebury Down Dig – Day 16

It is typical on the last day of an excavation to find things you don’t expect. For us it was two new, exciting Neolithic pits. This means that in one day they both needed to be half-sectioned, drawn, fully excavated and planned… fine for the one that was uncovered this morning in Trench 1, slightly more challenging for the one found after lunch in Trench 3!

What is interesting about the site is how different each pit is in terms of its fill: burnt turf, chalk rubble, placed deposits, pits left open, Middle Neolithic, Late Neolithic… The new pit in Trench 3 is associated with Neolithic pottery (type as yet unidentified) and with what is probably (judging by its size) the radius and ulna of an auroch (giant wild cattle that didn’t die out in Britain until the Middle Bronze Age)!

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Josh cleaning round the Grooved Ware pottery with his arm (in fact his radius and ulna!) just above the auroch bones ©National Trust/Briony Clifton

 

Another exciting find today was from the other half of Marian’s larger pit in Trench 9 with the burnt turfs. A large piece of sarsen was revealed; this was next to a large piece of charcoal (including sapwood – which will hopefully give us a good radiocarbon date) which was removed and wrapped up in foil to avoid contamination. When the sarsen was removed it was flipped over and a lovely worn surface was exposed – we have a quern stone!

The photos above show Marian cleaning the other half of the pit to the top of the burnt turfs (left); the pit cleaned to the turf tops, the sarsen in situ and the charcoal… under the shovel (top right); the sarsen being turned over, showing us we have a quern fragment (bottom right).

These are just two pits of six and, together with the tree throws and the large scatter site which we have not found the edges of in our trenches, the site has revealed a rich record of activity in the area. These trenches are just a small sample of what we now know is a key part of the story at Avebury, before, during and after the henge monument was constructed and we can now use the information gained from this site and the Living with Monuments Project as a whole to understand better the major sites in the area.

Foot of Avebury Down Dig – Day 15

Today a great, efficient team finished cleaning back Trench 3 and the two pits in Trench 9 were half-sectioned by Jake and Marian.

Both of these pits are shallow and truncated. Jake’s pit, the smaller of the two, has had some lovely finds, including three scrapers (the two best of which are pictured below), a burnt fragment of bone and, unsurprisingly, some flint flakes.

The section drawings of the pits were also completed today, ready for full excavation tomorrow. There has not yet been any pottery from either pit, therefore it is difficult to date them any more precisely than either Neolithic or Early Bronze Age at the moment, but we don’t yet know what the other halves may hold…

Marian’s pit was larger but did not contain any tools. Instead there was burnt animal bone, burnt flint and burnt sarsen. There was also burnt turf, which shows up nicely in the section as an orange strip.

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Marian enjoying the excavation of the larger pit containing burnt material ©National Trust/Briony Clifton

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The pit containing the burnt material and turf – you can see the turf as a slightly orange colour on the north (left) side of the section ©National Trust/Briony Clifton

 

Tomorrow we will be finishing off the features and getting everything drawn ready for backfilling on Friday… (is it that time already!?)