Tag Archives: Sarsen

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)!

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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.

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Foot of Avebury Down Dig – Day 13

When Trench 3 was first deturfed, it was a quarter of the size of Trenches 1 and 2. However, an extension has been decided upon to make it equal in size because there seems to be a comparable concentration of worked flint in all three trenches and a particular increase of worked flint towards the eastern edge of Trench 3; therefore, today saw many of us troweling back our new squares.

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Happily, the extension has paid off. We’re still getting large concentrations of worked flint and we can also add a few tools to our small list – including another Early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead:

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There was also a lovely scraper, the type of which we have not yet had on site. It has been retouched all the way round its edges and I am reliably told by Josh that it is from the earlier part of the Late Neolithic:

Another artefact we have not yet had on site is a sarsen flake. Two were recovered from Trench 3 today and are pieces of sarsen that have been struck from a bigger piece. One of them (pictured below) has been struck from a bigger piece, but has also had a piece struck from it and has therefore been worked on both sides.

Elsewhere on site a small team slightly extended and then cleaned back Trench 9 and it’s looking great!

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We can see a few features in Trench 9, including the two probable pit features mentioned in yesterday’s blog post at the bottom of the photo – the larger one now in full view since the trench extension ©National Trust/Briony Clifton

Foot of Avebury Down Dig – Day 9

Today we have a guest blogger, Emily Banfield, a researcher from University of Leicester, who is a core team member of the excavations that have taken place at Avebury over the last 5 years:

‘Today we started to excavate some of the features that were revealed after the removal of the soil. In Trench 1, a small circular feature has proved to be a pit containing cattle bones, small lumps of sarsen – the same stone that forms the megalithic element of Avebury henge – and pottery, including Grooved Ware. This suggests that the pit dates to the late Neolithic.’

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The Grooved Ware pit, half sectioned, which includes Grooved Ware pottery, sarsen stone and animal bone ©Josh Pollard

‘This find is keeping spirits up despite the weather. Apropos of appalling summer weather, whilst sheltering behind the portaloos we also realised that our transit van lined up perfectly with both a notch in the Avebury bank and the back stone of the Avebury Cove! A perfect alignment for a great day on site, getting into the features for the first time.’