Tag Archives: Avebury

Ancient Avebury: Walk and Talk with an Archaeologist – Wednesday 20 July

West_kennet_lb

Along the way we’ll delve into the mysteries of West Kennet long barrow

 

On Wednesday 20 July. I’m going to be leading a half-day walk  through the Avebury  landscape. If you’d like to join me there are  just a few places left, but booking is essential.

We’ll be exploring a Neolithic tomb, encountering Europe’s largest prehistoric mound and talking about how the latest discoveries are transforming our ideas of ancient Avebury. On our return to Avebury after the walk  you’ll join me for a delicious light lunch.

You can find out more and book your place here.

John Aubrey: The Man who ‘Discovered’ Avebury

On 7 January 1649  John Aubrey  wit, raconteur and sometime antiquary was out hunting with friends when he chanced upon a north Wiltshire village. What he stumbled upon there – and more importantly recognised – were the remains of an ancient earthwork containing a series of stone circles and settings.

John_Aubrey[1].jpg

John Aubrey

 Today travellers from across the planet have little difficulty in recognising Avebury henge and stone circles as ancient. But it was far from easy in Aubrey’s day. A thriving village had grown up around and between the stones.

Fields, houses, gardens and even inns had been laid out within the bank and ditch and many stones that we see upright today lay buried (it would be another three hundred years  before Alexander Keiller revealed and re-erected them).

If truth be told John Aubrey wasn’t actually the first person to recognise the antiquity of Avebury. John Leland in his, ‘Itineraries,’ based on journeys he made through England and Wales between 1535 and 1543 made a passing reference to both Avebury and Silbury Hill.

And of course there had been a settlement at Avebury since Saxon times – and some at least of the generations of its residents must have pondered  the origins of the gigantic stones and earthworks that framed their daily lives.

But Aubrey went further than Leland, he not only recognised Avebury’s significance he was  captivated by it, famously declaring that Avebury, ‘does as much exceed in greatness the so renowned Stoneheng (sic) as a cathedral doeth a parish church.’

Avebury by John Aubrey 1663 plan

Aubrey’s Plan of Avebury

In fact he was so smitten that  in 1663 he produced the first plan of the henge and stone circles in his Monumenta Britannica . The plan was created using a simple surveying device known as a plane table and its an astonishingly accurate record of the monument as it  then was.

Its a lasting and fitting tribute to the painstaking work of the man who, ‘discovered,’ Avebury that three and a half centuries after Aubrey drew his plan (now housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford) researchers endeavouring to unravel Avebury’s secrets continue to consult it.

Avebury Dig 2015 Day 17

Well, here it is, our final day of digging on the West Kennet Avenue Occupation Site. I can barely believe its less than three weeks since we started digging.

There’s an air of focused freneticism (the spell check tells me that’s not a word but it seems to describe what’s happening) on site. In Trench 6 the tree-throw hole that is right next to our giant posthole has turned out to be simply enormous; so big in fact that we have more than a sneaking suspicion that the post may have been erected to in some way commemorate (or  replace) the giant of a tree that had once stood there.

Dr Pollard (Josh) and Professor Pike (Alistair) ponder on the subject of the enormous tree throw hole. The part  Shannon is standing in is about a third of the whole thing,

Dr Pollard (Josh) and Professor Pike (Alistair) ponder on the subject of the enormous tree throw hole. The part Shannon is standing in is about a third of the whole thing,

We were joined by Prof. Mike Parker Pearson who returned to give us a hand with his favourite pursuit of seeking out stakeholes in the bedrock of Trench 6. When we join the dots and analyse the finds and samples we’ve taken this may help us to work out whether a structure once stood here.

The team have been cleaning down (for the last time) and recording in both trenches.Without recording archaeology is (literally) just a pile of (very) old rubbish!

Trench 4 was a hive of recording activity. Planning, surveying in levels and ensuring we have all the necessary points on our site grid (courtesy of  Digital GPS).

Trench 4 was a hive of recording activity. Planning (Mark in the red t-shirt), surveying in levels and ensuring we have all the necessary points on our site grid (courtesy of Digital GPS).

And to complete our recording we had Adam Stanford of Aerial Cam who it would be an understatement to say is a bit of a whizz with airborne archaeo-photography.

Adam Stanford of Aerial Cam setting up to take our aerial shots of the trenches

Adam Stanford of Aerial Cam (head in the back of the Land Rover) setting up to take our aerial shots of the trenches. While George and Josh enjoy their break from the mega-posthole.

And that was that. Or nearly. Tomorrow we backfill the trenches.