Tag Archives: Quern

Foot of Avebury Down Dig – Day 16

It is typical on the last day of an excavation to find things you don’t expect. For us it was two new, exciting Neolithic pits. This means that in one day they both needed to be half-sectioned, drawn, fully excavated and planned… fine for the one that was uncovered this morning in Trench 1, slightly more challenging for the one found after lunch in Trench 3!

What is interesting about the site is how different each pit is in terms of its fill: burnt turf, chalk rubble, placed deposits, pits left open, Middle Neolithic, Late Neolithic… The new pit in Trench 3 is associated with Neolithic pottery (type as yet unidentified) and with what is probably (judging by its size) the radius and ulna of an auroch (giant wild cattle that didn’t die out in Britain until the Middle Bronze Age)!


Josh cleaning round the Grooved Ware pottery with his arm (in fact his radius and ulna!) just above the auroch bones ©National Trust/Briony Clifton


Another exciting find today was from the other half of Marian’s larger pit in Trench 9 with the burnt turfs. A large piece of sarsen was revealed; this was next to a large piece of charcoal (including sapwood – which will hopefully give us a good radiocarbon date) which was removed and wrapped up in foil to avoid contamination. When the sarsen was removed it was flipped over and a lovely worn surface was exposed – we have a quern stone!

The photos above show Marian cleaning the other half of the pit to the top of the burnt turfs (left); the pit cleaned to the turf tops, the sarsen in situ and the charcoal… under the shovel (top right); the sarsen being turned over, showing us we have a quern fragment (bottom right).

These are just two pits of six and, together with the tree throws and the large scatter site which we have not found the edges of in our trenches, the site has revealed a rich record of activity in the area. These trenches are just a small sample of what we now know is a key part of the story at Avebury, before, during and after the henge monument was constructed and we can now use the information gained from this site and the Living with Monuments Project as a whole to understand better the major sites in the area.

Avebury Dig 2014 – Day 13

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..).

You see - chewed biscuit. but hte little rounded impression was made by someone decorating the pot 5,000 years ago

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'

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.

Dr Mike Allen taking samples

Dr Mike Allen taking samples