In 1934 and 1935 Alexander Keiller excavated the part of the West Kennet Avenue that runs immediately south from Avebury Henge and Stone Circles. Along most of the length that Keiller dug he found that the Avenue was made up of pairs of standing stones. In some cases he found a large hole had been dug in the Medieval period, the millennia old stone pushed over into it and then buried. Here Keiller re-erected the stone in its original position. In others cases only the original socket that Neolithic people had dug to stand the stone upright in survived. Here Keiller placed small concrete obelisks to mark where they had once stood.
But there was one location where Keiller found neither stone nor socket. Instead he found what seemed to be the remains of a large rubbish heap (or midden) together with a number of holes and pits that had been dug into the ground. You can identify the site today because Keiller placed a flat topped concrete marker there. The finds from the site show that the site was in use at the beginning of the Later Neolithic. This may have been at the time, or a little before, the very earliest parts of the henge and stone circles were being built. Keiller identified this as an occupation site. At least part of this must have still been visible when the builders of the Avenue put the sarsen stones in place because instead of putting up a stone here they decided to leave a gap and incorporate it into their scheme.
We returned to the site first discovered by Alexander Keiller eighty years ago in 2012 and carried out an initial geophysical survey at the West Kennet Avenue occupation site in 2012, and a first year of excavation in 2013.
We returned in 2014 to excavate more of the site. With the help of 21st century techniques we hoped to tease out some of the long hidden secrets of what this site represents. Were the arcs of stakeholes we found last year buildings? Exactly when was the site in use and how long for? And what can it tell us about the lives of the people who built and used the monuments at Avebury? You can discover what we found on our Blog.