Visit date: 6th November 2011
Weather: Chilly, fairly windy, light very good (hence lots of pictures)
Starting at the car park on the Workway Drove near Knap Hill, the first stop was Knap Hill itself and the Romano-British plateau enclosure just below.
Skirting the edge of the coombe up onto Golden Ball Hill for a lesson in geology and coombe formation and then across to the dew pond on Golden Ball Hill, following the Alton 3 linear (Tubb 2011 : 270 Fig 2.13) to the site of a former dew ponder at its far end.
The Deserted Medieval Village of Shaw was visited, then, descending the hill, prehistoric field systems were pointed out as visible lynchets in the low light. Reaching the valley bottom, it was then a long climb up the convex hill to Wansdyke at Red Shore, where the curving of the banks denoting an entranceway was explained. Following the Wansdyke south-west, the route then took in the earthworks of the Eald Burh and the hut platforms on the back of Milk Hill before crossing over Milk Hill to visit the Oxna Mere and then over to visit Adam’s Grave on Walkers Hill before descending back to the car park.
Grid Reference: SU 0227 6718 – SU 1956 6644 (NMR LINEAR 54)
The East Wansdyke is a large linear monument consisting of a bank and ditch with the ditch to the north, stretching almost east-west across northern Wiltshire (Clark 1958 :89) at least between Morgan’s Hill and Savernake Forest (Clark 1958 :89) and following the edge of the Marlborough Downs (Gardner 2009 :25). The name Wansdyke derives from Woden and it thought to be an indication of its use as a boundary marker due to the association of both boundaries and some archaeological sites with the supernatural, and forms part of the hundred boundary between the hundreds of Selkley and Cannings (Semple 1998 :118).
|Year||Investigation type||Investigation Details|
|1966–1970||Excavation||Excavation at SU 117648 and SU 193665 (Fowler 2000) discovered Roman material within the bank, providing evidence for a post-Roman date|
|1997||Excavation||As part of an excavation of a trench for a water pipe, an existing causeway through the West Wansdyke at Bishops Cannings was cut through, but no artefacts were recovered and the ground through which the cut was made was mostly of modern formation (Anon 1999).|
Chronology and Current Interpretation
The East Wansdyke is mentioned in a boundary charter of 957 (Anon 2012) and is shown in Figure 9 as cutting through the estate described, meaning logically that it must post-date the creation of that estate and pre-date the 957 charter.
Draper (2006 : 59) set out the two main theories for the origins of East Wansdyke: firstly that it was constructed as a defence against Saxon incursions from the north and dates from the 5th Century AD. He gave a second popular theory that it was constructed by the Saxons themselves in the late 6th Century to defend against another group of Saxons. Building on the work of Reynolds, Draper favours a third theory: that the earthworks are the 8th Century northern border of the fledgling Wiltshire. He points out that the late 7th and 8th Centuries saw the land in the north change from Mercian control to Wessex control and vice versa, and he proposes that the East Wansdyke represents the West Saxons’ attempt to fix a border and also provide defensive and offensive positions in the conflict (Draper 2006 :60).
Grid Reference: SU 1210 6365
The Causewayed Enclosure on Knap Hill occupies a prominent position in its landscape. Set on the southern scarp of the Marlborough Downs, overlooking the Vale of Pewsey, it marks the edge between two very different geologies: the chalk of the downs, and the greensand and clay of the vale (Geddes 2000). Thomas (1999 :43) considers this position on an ecotone to be pertinent to the placing of the site, as it may reflect the movement of people and animals between the heavier soils of the Vale and the lighter soils of the downs .
The site covers 17 hectares (Wilts SMR SU 16 SW 100) and the earthworks follow the contour of the hill, rather than have an ‘aspect’ as do other causewayed enclosures (Smith 1971 : 111). The circuit is also incomplete, but this is not the only example of an incomplete circuit of a Causewayed Enclosure: Combe Hill near Eastbourne also has a gap in the circuit where it meets the coombe edge (Curwen 1930 : 14), suggesting that the coombe itself may perform the completion of the circuit, or that it was not necessary to do so.
Knap Hill is connected to the neighbouring Golden Ball Hill via a saddle-shaped piece of land above a steep coombe. The proximity of the site to a flint acquisition site on Golden Ball Hill may be another reason for its landscape location as Bradley suggests that the intervisibility of Causewayed Enclosures and flint acquisition sites is significant (Bradley 2005 :103). Pollard and Reynolds suggest a more practical explanation: that the flint acquisition created a history of gathering at that place (Pollard & Reynolds 2002 :55).
|Year||Investigation type||Investigation Details|
|1909-1910||Excavation||Maud and Ben Cunnington were the first to excavate the Causewayed Enclosure, and indeed to recognise that it was a type of site not described before (Cunnington 1909). From this, Maud proposed that the site was of Neolithic date (in the time before radiocarbon dating) based on the pottery finds, and that the causewayed features were deliberate and part of the intended design. Among her finds were domesticated ox and pig bones, and pottery now known as Windmill Hill type (Cunnington 1911).|
|1961||Excavation||Graham Connah followed up the Cunningtons’ excavation with a far more methodical approach to, and higher standard of, recording and had the benefit of radiocarbon dating to assess his finds with. He confirmed the presence of domesticated ox in a Neolithic context but is less certain about the context of the sheep, goat and pig bones found as the stratigraphy was not clear (Connah 1965 :17).|
Chronology and Current Interpretation
From Cunnington’s report it was difficult to establish which ‘relics’ came from a particular location, but the fact that they were found in groups suggests that casual loss is not an appropriate interpretation. That the ‘relics’ were also found above the initial silting of the ditches (Cunnington 1911 :61) suggests also that perhaps deposition was not the primary purpose of the enclosure, at least initially.
Antler fragments found in layer 6 of Cutting i (as shown on Figure 13) were radiocarbon-dated and returned a date of 4710 ±115 BP or 2760BC (Connah 1969) but this seems unlikely to be the initial construction date as is very late. Bayliss et al. ( 2008) re-examined the dates of Causewayed Enclosures and came up with a date of 3530-3375 cal. BC (91% probability) which is far earlier and means that it post-dates Windmill Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow by a century (NMR SU 16 SW 22).
Connah interpreted his findings as indicating that the Causewayed Enclosure at Knap Hill enjoyed a very short period of use (Connah 1965 : 21), with no evidence for the re-cutting of ditches as had been found at other Causewayed Enclosures (NMR SU 16 SW 22). Lacking the vast amount of material recorded at Windmill Hill, it is difficult to begin to establish what Knap Hill might have been used for or thought of as. The interpretation as an established meeting place near a source of flint, the liminal position between heavy and light soils, the far-reaching views over the Vale and also up to Milk Hill may all be significant, but what this significance lead to is difficult to say.
Anon, 2012. Charter S647. Electronic Sawyer. Available at: http://www.esawyer.org.uk/charter/647.html [Accessed May 24, 2012].
Anon, 1999. Excavation and Fieldwork in Wiltshire 1997. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 92, pp.133-143.
Bayliss, A., Healy, F. & Whittle, A., 2008. The Timing and Tempo of Change: Examples from the Fourth Millennium cal. BC in Southern England. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 18(01), pp.65-70. Available at: http://www.journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0959774308000061 [Accessed December 27, 2010].
Bradley, R., 2005. Ritual and Domestic Life in Prehistoric Europe New editio., Routledge.
Clark, A., 1958. The nature of Wansdyke’. Antiquity, 32(126), pp.89–96. Available at: http://www.antiquity.cc/Ant/032/0089/Ant0320089.pdf [Accessed January 22, 2011].
Connah, G., 1965. Excavations at Knap Hill, Alton Priors, 1961. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 60(1), pp.1-23.
Connah, G., 1969. Radiocarbon dating for Knap Hill. Antiquity, 43(172), pp.304-305. Available at: http://www.antiquity.ac.uk/Ant/043/0301/Ant0430301.pdf.
Cunnington, M.E., 1909. 28. On a Remarkable Feature in the Entrenchments of Knap Hill Camp, Wiltshire. Man, 9(1909), pp.49–52. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2839810 [Accessed January 11, 2011].
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Curwen, E.C., 1930. Neolithic camps. Antiquity, 4(13), pp.22-54. Available at: http://www.antiquity.cc/Ant/004/0022/Ant0040022.pdf [Accessed January 11, 2011].
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Fowler, P.J., 2000. East Wansdyke, Red Shore and New Buildings, Alton and Savernake (Fyfod Working Paper 66 FWP66) [Online]. In Fyfield and Overton Project, 1959-1998 [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] (doi:10.5284/1000336). Available at: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/arch-302-1/dissemination/pdf/disk8/fwp66/fwp66b.pdf [Accessed May 24, 2012].
Gardner, K., 2009. East Wansdyke: the dating game. In A. F. Smith, L. Fry, & K. Gardner, eds. The Last of the Britons – Kings, Thugs or Saints? Somerset & adjoining counties 400 –700 AD. Papers from the Symposium held at Taunton Saturday 26 November 2005. CBA – South-West & SANHS.
Geddes, I., 2000. Hidden Depths: Wiltshire‘s Geology & Landscapes, Bradford on Avon, UK: Ex Libris Press.
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Smith, I.F., 1971. Causewayed Enclosures. In D. D. . Simpson, ed. Economy and settlement in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain and Europe. Leicester University Press, pp. 89-112.
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