Tag Archives: Neolithic House

Durrington Dig 2016 – Tuesday 9 August

Dynamic Diversity – the nature of working on a prehistoric archaeological site

The team has been digging for 8 days and ideas are continually evolving and being re-evaluated. What is exciting about this excavation is that no matter what day you visit or read the blog, you will hear something different from the previous day – and tomorrow will likely be different from today.

Theories, which can develop in tandem, are either abandoned, held on to, proved or disproved, or sit in the background quietly in wait. There are many specialists and highly experienced archaeologists on site who are all sharing and debating their ideas with each other – and if you’re lucky you may have caught them on site in deep discussion.


Three different areas under excavation – different ideas for each one

Let’s go back to the house floors. There have been 1 possibly 2 house floors since we started on site. Today there are none. Yesterday’s house floor which looked so convincing to the archaeologists has turned out to be chalk capping for a feature below. A quarter of this chalk has been removed and revealed a cow jaw and pelvis (photo below). More on this as the digging continues.


There are two large post holes on site, both appear to have a ramp and both appear to have been dug with the intention of holding an upright. Sometime later, when the post holes and ramps were filled in, a new small pit was dug into one of them and two new pits in the other. A big question remains about what happened between the original digging of the post holes/ramps and the new pits.


The easternmost post hole

We need to get to the bottom of it… literally.

Neither post hole has been completely excavated yet and there are several theories in play at the moment.

Four theories in a nutshell:

  • These holes were dug ready for posts (as shown by the ramp), the scheme was abandoned and a henge was constructed.
  • The holes were dug and a great timber circle was erected prior to the henge bank, monumentalizing the location of the Late Neolithic village.
  • The holes were dug ready for uprights. That they held posts is yet to be determined for sure because the post holes were recut as pits and the evidence that they held uprights is beneath the current level of excavation.
  • The holes were dug, an upright was erected then removed and the henge bank was built.

Undoubtedly there are more theories to come and others which have been and will be re-evaluated as we discover more throughout the excavation. Archaeology is an ongoing dynamic process which is worthy of discussion and debate and, certainly on prehistoric sites, these fascinating, enigmatic discoveries will not give up their secrets lightly.


Durrington Dig – Monday 8th August

There is a lovely, relaxed atmosphere here on our Durrington Walls dig and we’ve had a steady stream of visitors coming along to see what we’ve been doing, it’s been really interesting to chat to some of you today. If you haven’t dropped in yet, there’s still time as our last day digging is Thursday this week.

The exciting news is that we’ve now definitely got a late Neolithic house. This is not entirely unexpected as some were excavated by Mike and the Stonehenge Riverside Project when they were digging further to the east on the site between 2004 and 2007. The fact that we’ve found another one here tends to confirm our working hypothesis that there may be as many as 1,000 houses on the site.

Neolithic house at Durrington Walls

Neolithic house floor with the eastern post pit just visible cutting through it on the right. The hearth can be seen as the darker area and where the planning frame is lying there is part of the collapsed wall.

The house is identified by a clean, chalk plaster floor area with a clearly defined hearth. The ashes of the last fire are still visible in the hearth, as is part of the collapsed chalk cob that we know from houses excavated previously seems to have been used as a sort of protective collar around the base of the walls.  Just after the hearth was used for the final time someone sat knapping flint, depositing a scatter of flint waste flakes into its ashes.

Hearth and flint scatter © National Trust Abby George

Hearth in the Neolithic house, with flint scatter visible. The large lump is another piece of chalk cob from the collapse / destruction of the house.

The house is the earliest visible part of the sequence in our trench and there’s a large midden (rubbish) deposit associated with the settlement visible across much of the surface of the surrounding area. This contains substantial amounts of cattle and pig bones (the remains of more than a few meals). After the house was abandoned the eastern post pit was dug, cutting into the house floor and through the midden. This post pit and the one on the western side of the trench held large timbers. Judging by the depth of the post pits the posts may have stood as much as four to six metres high.

There’s much debate among the team about whether the timber posts rotted in situ or were removed. At the moment it looks as if the timber post in the western post pit may have rotted in situ, but it’s possible that the post in the eastern post pit was removed before the hole was covered by the bank.  The question is – how did they get it back out again?  A large post like this would not be easy to lift and one would expect the chalk at the edge of the post hole to be crushed and there to be a signature shape to the bottom of the post hole indicating the post had been rocked to loosen it. The remainder of the fills of both post pits are yet to be removed so watch this space.

The final part of the sequence in our trench was the construction of the henge bank which was built over the top of the post pots ensuring that they disappeared from view for over four millennia.

And one final bonus find before the end of the day. An antler pick was discovered in the eastern post pit.

Antler pick © National Trust Abby George

Antler pick found in the eastern post pit