The last two weeks have flown by and we can’t believe the final day of digging is here. There is almost always a sense of frenetic urgency on site towards the end of a dig – making sure all the boxes are ticked, everything is in order, photographed (especially in this case with the photogrammetry), drawn and meticulously recorded . And in this case putting on our ‘camera-best’ for Countryfile who were here filming at the excavation… watch this space.
Throughout the last fortnight there have been scores of visitors every day, perhaps brought here by our blog or simply passing by and noticing us, local people interested in what’s happening in their ‘back garden’, people who have followed this Durrington story for months, or people tracking down the Pokémon Gym at Woodhenge. No matter who you are it’s been wonderful seeing all of the fascination with what we’re up to.
What the team has discovered in the last couple of weeks is a new, previously unidentified Late Neolithic phase here at Durrington Walls – the beginnings of a great timber circle that curved around where the henge bank would later be constructed.
There is still a lot to discuss, investigate and hypothesise, among which is:
- the completion, or not, of the timber circle
- if the posts were lifted vertically how they did this, and why?
- the dating of raising and dismantling these posts (we await radiocarbon dates for the very handy antler in the posthole fill and the scapula at the bottom of the posthole for this)
- the idea that a decision was made to replace the timber circle (complete or not) with a great henge monument
- what happened to the timber posts after they were removed?
An interesting discovery that came later this afternoon was a series of concentric rings at the base of the easternmost post hole. Discussion flourished over the cause of these, but one thought is that rotating the post in the posthole breaks the vacuum and enables the post to be lifted out vertically in the first place.
The teams working here are highly experienced specialists and have been working on this project for a long time, collaborating and gathering data to begin the excavation. However, the excavation is only Act II of all the hard work.
After this comes all the post-excavation work including the radiocarbon dating, and the Hidden Landscapes Project team will be using what the site team has found here, including all the data from laser scanning, to interrogate their original geophysics results in order to further understand the data that is produced prior to excavation. By taking and analysing a lot of samples from the site and by mapping the pre-excavation geophysical results over the laser scanning data of the excavation, the Hidden Landscapes team can see how accurately these type of features can be defined and interpreted prior to excavation.
There is so much more to come out of the work from this incredibly exciting fortnight, but the team here has already changed the way we interpret the Late Neolithic landscape at Durrington Walls with a new monumental phase, and also our ideas of the people who were here raising and pulling down great timber posts within such a short time frame. As is so often the case, the more we uncover, the more questions we have.