We’re just coming to the end of Day 1 of our first full- blown excavation in the Living with Monuments Project which is being directed by Prof. Josh Pollard (Southampton University), Dr Mark Gillings (Leicester University), Prof. Alistair Pike (Southampton) and Dr Nick Snashall (National Trust) together with Dr. Ben Chan (Southampton), Dr. Ros Cleal (National Trust) and Dr Mike Allen (Allen Environmental Archaeology). This year the team is based at a the foot of Avebury Down, in an area to the east of Avebury henge, where we will be for the next three weeks.
The site is in an area where Rev. H.G.O. Kendall and W.E.V. Young began to collect Neolithic flintwork in the 1920s, and where a fantastic, dense scatter of early and middle Neolithic flintwork (c.4000-2900BC) was identified. Though Kendall’s collection is housed in the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury the exact location of the scatter remained a mystery until 2006 when map detective work by Jim Gunter identified its probable location and shortly afterwards on the ground investigations by Josh, Ros and Nick established its exact position.
Today we began excavating this known Neolithic site, starting with the de-turfing of a series of trenches, and already we are revealing some worked flint flakes and cores, so watch this space…
Quite a nice day today on the weather front – lots of sun, but not too hot. Some Peterborough Ware turned up this morning, but of the ‘looking like half-chewed digestive biscuit’ variety, although one piece had the remains of a small impression made by someone’s little fingernail 5,000 or so years ago (photographer Mike (Robinson) despairs every time I say there’s another bit of pot to photograph, and you can see why..).
Chewed biscuit seems a pretty fair description. but the rounded impression was made by someone decorating the pot 5,000 years ago; pits made by fingernails are usually in the neck of a pot, but that’s impossible to see here.
But this rather nice quern (for grinding cereal grains) proved more photogenic:
A stone showing the characteristic smooth dished surface of a ‘saddle quern’, found this afternoon
This type of quern is very typically Neolithic and is very simple: another smaller stone would be used to grind the grains in the dished area (there is a saddle quern and rubbing stone on display in the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury which shows them together).
We also had a visit from another member of the Between the Monuments team: Dr Mike Allen. Mike’s specialism is molluscs, but he’s also responsible for the environmental side of the project.