Visit date: 6th May 2012

Weather: Initially chilly but bright, warm sunshine by the afternoon, wind negligible

Introduction

The route went from Martin Green’s farmhouse across Fir Tree Field to the Great Shaft, then over the field to see the excavated causewayed ring-ditch and the reconstructed round barrow. Leaving Fir Tree Field, the route then followed the footpath (somewhat intruded upon by oilseed rape) up the hill to the top of Gussage Hill to see the long barrow that is included in the Cursus and to view the settlement earthworks. Walking along the top of the ridge, the route then turned left onto the Ackling Dyke Roman Road and followed that as far as the road. Turning left, the next destination was the Wyke Down Henge and associated monuments. The highlight was then to see Martin Green’s museum and see the artefacts he has discovered on his farm.

Figure 1: Location of Wyke Down Henge and the Shaft in relation to other sites on Down Farm. After Green & Michael J Allen 1997 Figure 1

Fir Tree Field ‘Shaft’

Grid Reference:  SU 0016 1467 (NMR SU 01 SW 163)

Site Overview

The Shaft is 10m wide at the top of the 3m-deep weathering cone, tapering to 5m across at the beginning of the vertical section. The entire depth is unknown, as when the water table was reached at 13.2m in 1992, and an augur put in to determine further depth, the bottom was not reached at 25.2m (Allen 2000 : 41).

 

Figure 2: Fir Tree Field Great Shaft showing the view into the weathering cone August 2009. Copyright K Bragg.

Health and Safety demands that such a dangerous hole must be fenced off, so access to the site is via key only.  (Unfortunately on the day of the field trip, the key was not forthcoming, so photos are from previous visit.) A bridge is provided so that a view may be had down the shaft, but as this is mostly filled in, the view is not as dramatic as might be thought.

Figure 3: Fir Tree Field Shaft from viewing platform August 2009. Copyright K Bragg.

When excavated, a sequence of layers was discovered (as shown in Figure 4): the first layer revealed Beaker pottery and flints, lower down was a layer containing Peterborough ware from the mid-late Neolithic. In this way a sequence of layers dating back to the late Mesolithic was obtained.

 

Figure 4: Section of the Fir Tree Field shaft with radiocarbon details. (Source Green 2000 Fig 23)

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1990 Discovery Lush cropmark discovered in Fir Tree Field that when excavated turned out to be the Fir Tree Field Great Shaft (Green & Michael J Allen 1997 :121)
1992-1994 Excavation Careful excavation provided a sequence of layers trapping environmental information in the range 5500-3775BP therefore providing key environmental information about the critical Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in this area (Green 2000).

 

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The shaft itself is now thought to be entirely natural and a result of water acidified by dissolved minerals causing the chalk to dissolve, although initially considered by geologists to be of anthropogenic origin (Green & Allen 1997 :130). Similar features can be found elsewhere in the area and such solution holes are a common feature of limestone and chalk geologies. The importance of this particular feature, in archaeological terms, is not just for the retrieved artefacts themselves, but for the rich environmental data that has been obtained that can then be used in the interpretation of the high density of archaeological sites in the area (Green & Allen 1997 :130-131).

Wyke Down Henge

Grid Reference:  SU 0065 1528 (NMR SU 01 NW 113)

Site Overview

The Wyke Down Henge presents as a penannular enclosure consisting of 26 chalk-cut pits approximately 2m deep (Entwistle & Bowden 1991 :26), although with some notable variety in depth (Barrett et al. 1991 :92), with a 3m entrance causeway (Entwistle & Bowden 1991 :26). After excavation, the site was left exposed so that the arrangement of pits can be seen. The site is located on a low hill and is close by part of the Dorset Cursus, and also a Peterborough Ware site in Chalkpit Field (Barrett et al. 1991 :105) (the field to the south-east of the field the henge is in). As well as being close by to other archaeological sites, the henge is close to the source of the River Allen, especially to a Pleistocene river cliff marking a paleochannel (Entwistle & Bowden 1991 :26). The section of the Cursus at this point is known to have been reused, and also would be most visible as it travels over the river cliff (Barrett et al. 1991 :105).

Figure 5: Wyke Down Henge looking south-west May 2012. Pits show as green circles in a ring against the chalk. Photo copyright P Bragg.

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1983-1984 Excavation and environmental analyses Excavated by Bradley, Barrett and Green, the pits were found to have been cut and then recut at a later stage and then a central pit cut where the axes of the monument cross. Among the finds were carved chalk objects in the primary cuts, and grooved ware in the secondary cuts.

 

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The initial pits that were dug silted up again quite quickly and from all sides (i.e. no evidence for external bank collapsing) (Barrett et al. 1991 :92). Brown (1991) suggests that the nature of artefacts found in this primary fill indicated that in the early stage of the henge, the deposition was pragmatic, rather than with any ritual/symbolic overtones. The environmental samples from this first phase indicate that the area was open but with the possibility of denser woodland nearby, with the evidence consistent with the environment external to the pit not just recording an internal micro-environment (Entwistle & Bowden 1991 : 26).

 

Figure 6: Outline plans of the Wyke Down hence monument, showing the distribution of deposits belonging to the primary phase. (Source Barrett et al. 1991 Fig 3.20)

The pits were then recut (more shallowly than the original) and material from these has been radiocarbon-dated to 2190 ± 80 bc (BM 2396) and 2200±50 bc (BM 2397) (Barrett et al. 1991 :92). These recut pits also contained grooved ware pottery and at the time of this deposit, environment conditions were more shaded: suggestive of scrub rather than woodland cover (Entwistle & Bowden 1991 : 28) and that the monument was left untended (Allen 2000 :48). The final stage was the insertion of a central pit, with a deposit that has been dated to 1510±90bc (BM 2394) (Barrett et al. 1991 :96).

Barrett et al. (1991 :105) require that the henge be interpreted as an enclosure rather than the alternative of a causewayed ring ditch (an example of which can be seen excavated in Fir Tree Field) but reject the (then-commonplace) interpretation of the pits as a communal and collective cremation cemetery. They point out that cremated remains were a small fraction of the total deposits, and were in a secondary phase and therefore not consistent with the original design and purpose of the monument.

Bibliography

Allen, M.J., 2000. Soils, Pollen and lots of snails. In A Landscape Revealed: 10,000 Years on a Chalkland Farm. Stroud: Tempus Publishing Ltd., pp. 36-49.

Barrett, J.C., Bradley, R. & Green, M., 1991. Landscape, monuments, and society: the prehistory of Cranborne Chase, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, A., 1991. Structured Deposition and Technological Change among the Flaked Stone Artefacts from Cranborne Chase. In J. C. Barrett, R. Bradley, & M. Hall, eds. Papers on the Prehistoric Archaeology of Cranborne Chase. Oxbow Monograph 11, pp. 101-133.

Entwistle, R. & Bowden, M., 1991. Cranborne Chase: The Molluscan Evidence. In J. C. Barrett, R. Bradley, & M. Hall, eds. Papers on the Prehistoric Archaeology of Cranborne Chase. Oxbow Monograph 11, pp. 20-48.

Green, M., 2000. A Landscape Revealed: 10, 000 Years on a Chalkland Farm illustrate., The History Press Ltd.

Green, M. & Allen, M.J., 1997. An Early Prehistoric Shaft on Cranborne Chase. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 16(2), pp.121-132. Available at: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/links/doi/10.1111%2F1468-0092.00029 [Accessed May 20, 2012].

 

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Visit date: 5th May 2012

Weather: Cold and windy, bright but cloudy

Introduction

The field trip was conducted by Land Rover and was a discontinuous selection of sites, rather than a progression around a landscape. For this reason, the sites visited will be listed rather than the perambulation described.

  • Snail Down Barrow Cemetery
  • Fittleton Long Barrow
  • Lidbury
  • Chisenbury Warren
  • East Chisenbury Midden

 

Chisenbury Warren

Grid Reference: SU 1785 5380

Site Overview

Chisenbury Warren presents as a series of earthworks 500m long (Fulford et al. 2006 : 54) covering approximately six hectares (Short 2006 :78), with a trackway leading into, and across the length of the earthworks (McOmish et al. 2002 : 100).  It is on the side of a gently-sloping, south-east-facing hill at the eastern end of Rainbow Bottom on Salisbury Plain (McOmish et al. 2002 : 98).  Despite the presence of a medieval rabbit warren in the woods behind the settlement, there is no evidence of extensive damage to the site, and no record of previous excavation, just the occasional surface find (Fulford et al. 2006 : 54).

 

Figure 1: Chisenbury Warren from the south-east April 2011. Copyright K Bragg.

Figure 2: Trackway leading into Chisenbury Warren from the south west April 2011. Copyright K Bragg.

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1980 Accidental Discovery Fulford et al. reported that in the cutting of an infantry trench in the 1980s, an adult female was found, and an individual burial. It was not clear if this represented the location of a cemetery or just a single burial event (Fulford et al. 2006 : 54).
1993 Excavation Reading University excavated and a geophysical survey was done to confirm the earthworks, this also revealed pits and ditches. The object of the excavation was to establish whether what was visible as surface remains represented an entire village (i.e. all the builds were contemporary with each other) or whether what the earthworks represented was in fact a drift in settlement over time. Another objective was to determine if all the platforms represented dwellings or if a mix of uses was represented. As this is one of the best-preserved examples of its kind, it was also important to establish the state of the below-ground remains to inform the conservation of other sites (Fulford et al. 2006 : 54).

 

Chronology and Current Interpretation

Excavation showed that the earliest settlement on the site potentially dated from the Late Iron Age (Fulford et al. 2006 : 73) with evidence for continuation of the settlement into the late Roman period (McOmish et al. 2002 : 98).

The finds from the site are consistent with activities of subsistence, industrial and domestic natures and of a rapid expansion in the early Roman period from a smaller site (Fulford et al. 2006 : 73-74)

Figure 3: Chisenbury Warren settlement and fields, Wiltshire. Romano-British village. (Source Wilson 2011 Fig 1)

Chisenbury Warren is a ‘ladder-style’ nucleated settlement – so-called because its main axis is a single lane or street and the buildings are arranged around it (Wilson 2011 : 2).

 

East Chisenbury ‘Midden’

Grid Reference:  SU14605323

Site Overview

The site occupies a false-crested position on a spur overlooking the River Avon (McOmish et al. 2010 :37), just north-west of the village of East Chisenbury. From the site a good view in most directions is possible.

 

Figure 4: View of and from East Chisenbury Midden, looking east-ish May 2012. Copyright K Bragg.

The site itself consists of a mound of deposited material covering approximately five hectares and up to two metres deep (Wilts SMR SU 15 SW 154).

 

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
Late 1700s Visit Colt Hoare visited the site and was made aware of the fertility of the land, and made finds of ‘rude British pottery’ but did not, it seems, recognize the mound as being other than the natural slope of the hill (McOmish et al. 2010 : 37-38).
1945 Excavation Walls and Bray and then Bray alone excavated at a location probably on the northern edge of the mound, and found much pottery and bone (McOmish et al. 2010 : 38-39).
1992-1993 Rediscovery of site, then excavation As the site was under threat from the development of a routeway, and prior to the information from the 1945 excavation being unearthed, an augur survey and test pit strategy was proposed to establish the nature of the site. Some of the augur probes did not reach the bottom of the deposit, implying the ground level was not level beneath the mound (McOmish et al. 2010 :43).In both test pits a complex sequence of deposits was found, with similar content in each test pit. The excavators felt they could tell separate deposition events apart only when the materials were of different composition, but some events seem to have been ‘capped off’ with a layer of compacted chalk to form a surface (McOmish et al. 2010 :50).Beneath the mound, the excavators noticed a layer thought to be a buried land surface and possibly plough soil, with what looked to be evidence for settlement beneath this.

 

 

Figure 5: RCHME earthwork survey plan. (Source McOmish et al. 2010 Fig. 3)

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The mound at East Chisenbury contains a complicated sequence of deposits of varying compositions, including ashy material, waste products and LBA/EIA pottery. It is surely difficult to generalize from such a small sample from such a large site, but McOmish et al. consider the excavations to show that the mound consists of material collected and potentially stored elsewhere (little weathering is observed) and then transported to the site and deposited, a suggestion reinforced by the mixture of both late and early pottery forms in one deposit. The animal waste and bedding does not appear to have been produced in situ as the edges of the deposits are not consistent with trampling having occurred (McOmish et al. 2010 : 86-87).

The ‘settlement’ beneath the midden also contains pottery of the All Cannings Type but appears to have been short-lived and the area returned to agricultural production before the formation of the midden (McOmish et al. 2010 : 88-89).

The compacted chalk layers do not seem to be ‘pavements’ as suggested for the similar features discovered by Maud Cunnington at All Cannings, and particularly the upper layer of compacted chalk is interesting as it seems less localized and may have covered the entire mound. McOmish et al. therefore suggest that it is consistent with a ‘capping’ event that would have left the deposit white and very visible (McOmish et al. 2010 : 87). This idea seems similar to how modern humans dispose of their rubbish, it is collected up in a single place and then covered over with concrete. In the case of East Chisenbury, however, the midden deposits continued above this layer (McOmish et al. 2010 : 88), so it was not a process termination indicator. Tubb (2011b : 40) suggests that the chalk layers may be viewed as a deposit in themselves. It is pointed out that a chemical reaction between the midden deposits and the chalk would produce a fungicidal chemical (McOmish et al. 2010 : 88). It would be very interesting to see if there were evidence for exploitation of this in the form of extraction holes, or perhaps gaps in the chalk layer where the reacting mass was removed entire.

Tubb (2011) broadly agreed with the deposition mechanisms as posited by McOmish et al., namely that material was potentially transported to the site having been curated elsewhere; material was generated onsite as a result of specialised activity; or that the site was in fact both settlement and midden: a form of tell (McOmish et al. 2010 : 84-86). Where Tubb takes exception is with the classification of the midden material itself as an unwanted product; he would rather it be seen as part of a complicated process of social reproduction in a time of change and transition. He suggests that the primary purpose of All Cannings Ware is to do with feasting and display, and that the deposition of examples of this material, plus the byproducts and waste products of that feasting process are of importance to society. Instead of the municipal landfill site, this is instead a record of a society’s reaction to a change in how relationships are formed and renegotiated, and a visual statement of that process in a prominent landscape position.

Bibliography

Fulford, M.G. et al., 2006. Iron Age and Romano-British Settlements and Landscapes of Salisbury Plain, Salisbury: Wessex Archaeology Report 20.

McOmish, D. et al., 2002. The Field Archaeology of the Salisbury Plain Training Area First Edit., English Heritage.

McOmish, D., Field, D. & Brown, G., 2010. The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Midden Site at East Chisenbury, Wiltshire. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 103, pp.35-101.

Short, B., 2006. England’s Landscape: The South East, Collins/English Heritage.

Tubb, P.C., 2011a. Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age transition sites in the Vale of Pewsey : the East Chisenbury midden in its regional context. Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Magazine, 104, pp.44-61.

Tubb, P.C., 2011b. The LBA/EIA Transition in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (British Series 543).

Wilson, P., 2011. Introduction to Heritage Assets: Roman Settlements, Swindon: English Heritage. Available at: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/iha-roman-settlements/romansettlements.pdf.

 

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Visit date: 4th March 2012

Weather: Initially driving rain, then blizzard

Introduction

This field trip took us on a walk past Withy Copse and out onto the area within the enclosure. We did some random surface collection to demonstrate how much material was visible on the surface of a ‘black earth’ site. It then began to snow – really heavily –  and we retreated to Devizes Museum to look at the fabulous exhibits there (and thaw out).

Figure 1: Blizzard on Martinsell 4th March 2012. Copyright K Bragg.

Withy Copse

Grid Reference: SU17216429

Site Overview

The site itself is a low mound within a wooded area, on a slope to the north of Martinsell enclosure and was described by Maud Cunnington (1909 :125) as being no more than 0.75m  height above ground level, and covering just over 19m long and a maximum width of just over 13m. The mound is at a distance of about 91m from the rampart of the enclosure (Cunnington 1909a : 18) and is in a south-west to north-east orientation (1909 :125).

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1907-8 Excavation Maud and Ben Cunnington excavated the mound, which they described as consisting of “a fine black mould” (1909 :125). Within this were found animal bone (mostly sheep, pig and ox); large quantities of pot sherds (more numerous towards the surface) and a fibulae.  (1909 :127). Also discovered was a filled-in ditch that Cunnington speculated might have been associated with a structure on the site but did not excavate due to the extension this would cause to the current excavation and the vegetation cover (1909 :125).
1975 Finds Evaluation The Savernake Ware collected by the Cunningtons was reassessed by Swan and the interpretation of the site as a kiln was put forward again on the basis that whilst there were no vastly distorted vessels that Mrs Cunnington might have considered diagnostic of ‘wasters’, there were indications of firing irregularities, and of items that may have been kiln furniture (Swan 1975 :38). Swan also proposed a later, and post-conquest date for the pottery, but this has subsequently been proven uncertain by Timby demonstrating the origins of Savernake Ware pre-dated the conquest (Timby 2001: 73-84 cited in Tubb 2011: 101).

 

Chronology and Current Interpretation

Cunnington mentions that it had been suggested that the mound was the remains of a kiln site, as so much pottery was discovered, but she dismissed this on the grounds that no malformed ‘waster’ pots were discernable (Cunnington 1909a :18) and her previous excavations had included kiln sites at Milton Lilbourne (Tubb 2011 :100) so she may be assumed to have felt able to recognize such when seen. Her interpretation, based on the types of pottery found, and the date of the fibulae was that this was a Late Pre-Roman Iron Age midden (Tubb 2011 :100). She stopped short of associating it with the hilltop enclosure, as she pointed out that the date of this was unknown (Cunnington 1909a :18). Cunnington was especially careful to point out that the absence of Gaulish Samian ware (when other sites locally show a presence), coupled with the imported Arratine Ware giving a range of second century BC to early first century AD indicate that the site was earlier than the conquest and did not continue beyond (Cunnington 1909a :19-21). Having been vindicated in the dating by Timby’s work Cunnington’s assessment of the site as a rubbish heap rests on the validity of Swan’s assessment of whether or not there was evidence for a kiln, and this isn’t clear without further investigation.

 

Martinsell Hilltop Enclosure

Grid Reference:  SU 1766 6395

Site Overview

The hill on which the enclosure is sited is one of the highest points in southern England and the third highest point in Wiltshire (the other two occurring further west in the same range) (Tubb 2011 :99). The enclosure itself covers approximately 13 hectares (NMR SU 16 SE 6) and follows the contours of the hill (Tubb 2011 :118). The enclosure is formed of a single ditch and bank, with the ditch on the outside and where the topography provides less natural defence on the western side, the rampart is more pronounced (Corney & Payne 2006).

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1821 (pub’d) Survey and excavation Colt-Hoare excavated but without finding any evidence for habitation (Goddard 1913 :307).
1970s Surface Collection Late Bronze Age – Early Iron Age pottery found on surface of interior after ploughing (Tubb 2011 :116)
1996 Geophysical Survey The Wessex Hillforts Project surveyed the interior of the enclosure with a magnetometer, which showed a few anomalies, but the results were such that no evidence for occupation could really be proposed (Corney & Payne 2006 :120).

 

Chronology and Current Interpretation

Cunliffe (2005 :422) gives Martinsell as an example of an early hilltop enclosure associated with an extensive system of linears, which he interprets as to do with cattle management (2005 :424). Tubb ( 2011 :118) rejects Cunliffe’s comparison of Martinsell with other Iron Age sites such as Balksbury and Walbury and suggests that a more reasonable comparison would be Liddington Castle, visible from Martinsell itself.

Despite the reported finds of LBA/EIA pottery from within the enclosure, Tubb considers them to be residual and unconnected with the construction of the ramparts, an activity he attributes to the Early Iron Age. He also notes an absence of evidence for Middle Iron Age activity on the hilltop, a gap that continues until the end of the Iron Age, stating that any activity may have been less archaeologically perceptible, rather than absent (Tubb 2011 :122).

The results of the Wessex Hillforts Project’s geophysical assessment lead Payne et al. to suggest that Martinsell was unlike many of the hillforts in the region and had perhaps been used as a temporary camp or for seasonal gatherings (Corney & Payne 2006 :120). The question as to what activity may have occurred inside hillforts has been the subject of much discussion, with Hill roundly rejecting Cunliffe’s view of Iron Age society, which he claims is based on Irish Medieval Society and the opinions of classical writers, and which requires hillforts to be central places supported by a strict hierarchical society (Hill 1996). Hill points out that much of what Cunliffe claimed made Danebury a central place, could be found in other Iron Age settlements (Hill 1996 : 96-99). Perhaps because hillforts are highly visible to archaeologists, their importance has been overstated and a greater knowledge of unenclosed settlement patterns may redress the balance.

It may be that the landscape position and the nature of the hill-form itself determined that an enclosure would serve a purpose; Tubb suggests that the visibility of Martinsell from quite a wide area around would make this a prominent place. He also points out that the LBA/EIA activity, in the form of Black-earth sites in the locality would have already marked out the place as a location of importance in the local “landscape mythology”. Therefore meaning that the transition in activity between that which required/created the Black-earth sites and the creation of the hill-top enclosure, may be seen as a continuity (Tubb 2011 :122).

Bibliography

Corney, M. & Payne, A., 2006. The Monuments and Their Setting. In A. Payne, M. Corney, & B. Cunliffe, eds. The Wessex Hillforts Project: extensive survey of hillfort interiors in central southern England. London: English Heritage, pp. 39-130.

Cunliffe, B., 2005. Iron Age Communities in Britain: an account of England, Scotland and Wales 4th Editio., Abingdon: Routledge.

Cunnington, M.E., 1909a. 11. Notes on a Late Celtic Rubbish Heap Near Oare, Wiltshire. Man, 9, pp.18-21.

Cunnington, M.E., 1909b. Notes on a Late Celtic Rubbish Heap Near Oare, Wiltshire. Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, XXXVI(CXI), pp.125-139.

Goddard, E.H., 1913. List of Prehistoric, Roman, and Pagan Saxon Antiquities. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 38, pp.153-378.

Hill, J.D., 1996. Hill-forts and the Iron Age of Wessex. In T. C. Champion & J. R. Collis, eds. The Iron Age in Britain and Ireland: Recent Trends. J. R. Collis Publications, pp. 95-116.

Swan, V.G., 1975. Oare Reconsidered and the Origins of Savernake Ware in Wiltshire. Britannia, 6, pp.36-61.

Timby, J., 2001. A reappraisal of Savernake Ware. In P. Ellis, ed. Roman Wiltshire and After: papers in honour of Ken Annable. Devizes: Wiltshire Archaeological And Natural History Society.

Tubb, P.C., 2011. The LBA/EIA Transition in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (British Series 543).

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Visit date: 15th January 2012

Weather: Absolutely freezing but clear blue skies. Not weather to stop still in for long.

Introduction

From the car park at Overton Hill, the route followed the Ridgeway up as far as the 214 spot height on the OS map. From there, a path along the edge of the field ended up in a field with Down Barn Enclosure in it. Climbing the hill following the footpath, past a series of the platforms of a Roman settlement and then crossed over to look at the experimental earthworks (on the Ordnance Survey map as Climatological Station). Crossing a field of grey wethers (sarsens), the next point was Wroughton Copse where the outline of the settlement Fowler called ‘Raddun’ was observed.

Figure 1: Map of the area. Source: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/arch-302-1/dissemination/gif/webimages/monograph/fyfod_monograph/(3.3).gif

Down Barn Enclosure

Grid Reference:  SU 1302 6981

Site Overview

The Down Barn enclosure is a 0.75 hectare trapezoidally-shaped enclosure (Wilts SMR SU 16 NW 314) and is in the bottom of a dry valley called Pickledean  (Fowler 2000c : 92). It has a pond and is close to several trackways, some of which extend beyond the local area (Fowler 2000c : 99).

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1961 Site Discovery
1962 Excavation Fowler ( 2000c : 97) reports that John Scantlebury and boys from Marlborough College Archaeological Society excavated this site and published an interim report, summarised additionally in Fowler 2000c. They found what may represent a hut or dwelling, lots of pottery and animal bone and the whole assemblage is consistent with late 4thCentury AD Romano-British occupation, or later (Wilts SMR SU 16 NW 314)Additionally may have been EBA ‘Beaker’ type pottery, but the excavation was incomplete and records unavailable (Fowler 2000c :97).
1964 Survey The site was surveyed in 1964 (Fowler 2000c :99) – see Figure 4
1996 Excavation Fowler (2000c : 98-99) reports also that a second excavation took place, directed by Gill Swanton of Bristol University, and the 1962 trenches were reassessed and he provides an interim report. More stratigraphic information was obtained and a Neolithic/EBA land surface was exposed. Post-holes, pottery and flint were discovered, including some Mesolithic finds. Over the top of this was a layer of humic material with no artefacts in it. Above this was the early Romano-British material, with no evidence for Iron Age occupation.Fowler also notes that the majority of the finds came from above the humic layer and that this was not constrained to the immediate environment and was found also beneath the banks of the enclosure, and was from the 1st-2nd Centuries AD (Fowler 2000c :99).

 

 

Figure 2: Down Barn Enclosure: plan, 1964. The northern side overlies the terrace-way along the north side of the Dene; the pond has been largely infilled since the survey. The axis of the long trench excavated north east-south west across the site ran immediately east of the more westerly of the two sarsen stones along the front of the southern platform. An area excavation also took place in the centre of that platform. Source: Fowler 2000c Fig 6.14 p99

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The prehistoric finds from this site were under a thick layer of what might be colluvium, and this may be obscuring many other sites that do not have above-surface remains (McQueen 2009 :7), and therefore may not be giving a complete picture of the area.

The 1996 excavation established that the enclosure must be later than the 1st-2nd Century AD (Fowler 2000c : 99) but with no real finds dating from the enclosure itself he states that it could be of any date. He points out that the lack of finds could be down to a use as an animal enclosure, or it could date from a time when pottery was scarcely used, such as between the 7th and 9th Centuries AD. 10th Century charters do not mention it though there are nearby bounds (Fowler 2000a :27), although it is not clear why they should unless there was nothing more robust to take as a fixed point. Fowler proposes that it might be a medieval sheepcote and possibly only part of a larger complex as per ‘Raddun’ (see below) (Fowler 2000 :99). Fowler considers the site to be significant not because of the enclosure necessarily, but for the drawing of attention to the prehistoric layers buried beneath the purported colluvial layer, which may hint at a land use that caused this catastrophe (Fowler 2000a :27).

 

‘Raddun’ (WC on Figure 2)

Grid Reference:  SU13817074

Site Overview

 

Figure 3: 'Raddun' earthworks and Wroughton Copse Jan 2012. Copyright K Bragg.

Still just about visible, even in Figure 6, are the slight earthworks that represent the site Fowler (2000c : 18) called ‘Raddun’, just south-east of Wroughton Copse, in a field called Wroughton Mead.

‘Raddun’ as a name is mentioned in a 1248 document, given as meaning ‘Red Down’ and alters over time to give ‘Wroughton’ (I. W. Blackwell 1996). This was not realised at the time of assigning the excavation identifier, hence the representation with ‘WC’ but ‘Raddun’ is used for the settlement within Wroughton Mead, to avoid further confusion. It is on a south-facing slope which catches the sun, but also the prevailing wind (Fowler 2000b)..

Figure 4: Plan of the field archaeology of Wroughton Mead showing the fragmentary pattern of prehistoric field systems, clearance mounds, the local contexts of excavated sites WC and 10, and the successive enclosures of the Mead itself. Source Fowler 2000c Fig 7.4

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1954 Air Photograph St Joseph took an oblique aerial photograph of Wroughton Copse from the east, which showed up the site clearly (Fowler 2000c)
1960 Excavation

 

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The chronology of this site comes from a blend of archaeological evidence and documentary sources (Fowler 2000b; Fowler 2000c : 121).

 

Figure 5: Plan of 'Raddun' (Wroughton Copse excavations, site WC), showing excavated buildings and other features. (Source Fowler 2000c fig 7.5)

 

Dates Evidence and Interpretation
Later prehistory ‘Celtic fields’ underlay the settlement earthworks (Fowler 2000b)
Early-mid Saxon Finds of organic-tempered pottery, and the place-name itself ‘Raddun’ lead Fowler to propose that there had been activity in this area in the Saxon period (Fowler 2000c :121).
1200-1220 Enclosure B (see Figure 8) and probably an early timber phase of Building 2 – possibly as a shelter for livestock, and a large pond (Fowler 2000c : 121).
1220-1260 Building 4 (longhouse) constructed in enclosure B and enclosure C (see Figure 8) added (Fowler 2000c :121).
1260-1300 Buildings 1, (rebuilt) 2, and 3 built as a replacement to building 4, with stone footings. Evidence for smithing in the remains of building 4 and an oven inserted in the northern end (Fowler 2000c : 121). Building 2 appears to have been an animal shelter (Fowler 2000c :125).
1300-1318 Bad harvests and then two wet years with no harvest in 1316 and 1318 meant that what was already a marginal existence at ‘Raddun’ became untenable and the place was deserted (Fowler & I. Blackwell 2000 :140). Blackwell (I. W. Blackwell 1996) notes that no references to ‘Raddun’ were found after this until the end of the 15th Century.
1490-1650 Document of 1493 mentions a ‘grange’ and this may well be the long building found in enclosure C

 

Figure 6: Interpretation in diagrammatic form suggesting four phases of development on site WC, the medieval farmstead identified as 'Raddun' a = in the early thirteenth century; b = mid-thirteenth century; c = late thirteenth century; d = early fourteenth century

‘Raddun’ is interpreted as being a major part of the pastoral concern of the manor: a place where many sheep were kept, along with cows, oxen and chickens, and from the archaeological evidence, also pigs and horses, with dogs also present (I. W. Blackwell 1996).

Bibliography

Blackwell, I.W., 1996. “Raddun”: the documentary evidence (Fyfod Working Paper 07a FWP07a) [Online]. In Fyfield and Overton Project, 1959-1998 [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] (doi:10.5284/1000336). Available at: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/arch-302-1/dissemination/pdf/disk1/fwp07/fwp07a.pdf [Accessed May 25, 2012].

Fowler, P.J., 2000a. Down Barn Enclosure: prehistoric stratigraphy, Roman occupation and a postRoman earthwork (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].

Fowler, P.J., 2000b. Excavation of the medieval settlement of “Raddun”, Wroughton Mead, Fyfield Down, Wiltshire (Fyfod Working Paper 65 FWP65) [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/html/fwp65.html.

Fowler, P.J., 2000c. Landscape Plotted and Pieced: Landscape History and Local Archaeology in Fyfield and Overton, Wiltshire, London: Society of Antiquaries of London.

Fowler, P.J. & Blackwell, I., 2000. The Land of Lettice Sweetapple: An English Landscape Explored, NPI Media Group.

McQueen, M., 2009. Barbury Castle Environs: Air Photo Survey and Analysis. Research Department Report Series no. 81-2009, Swindon: English Heritage. Available at: http://services.english-heritage.org.uk/ResearchReportsPdfs/081_2009WEB.pdf [Accessed December 19, 2011].

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Written on January 15th, 2012 , Certificate Year Two, Field Trip

Visit date: 6th November 2011

Weather: Chilly, fairly windy, light very good (hence lots of pictures)

Introduction

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.

 

Knap Hill from GbH

Figure 1: Knap Hill from Golden Ball Hill, showing the Romano-British plateau settlement below the line of the causewayed enclosure Nov 2011. Copyright K Bragg.

 

 

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.

 

Golden Ball Hill

Figure 2: Golden Ball Hill and looking down into the coombe Nov 2011. Copyright K Bragg.

 

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.

 

Hut CIrcles

Figure 3: Hut platforms on Milk Hill Nov 2011. Copyright K Bragg.

Adam's Grave

Figure 4: Adam's Grave (Alton 14 - Grinsell) Feb 2010. Copyright K Bragg.

 

East Wansdyke

Grid Reference: SU 0227 6718 – SU 1956 6644 (NMR LINEAR 54)

 

Site Overview

 

WansdykeMorgansHill

Figure 5: East Wansdyke at Morgan's Hill. (Source Gardner 2009 Fig 5-3)

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).

 

Cow on Wansdyke

Figure 6: The East Wansdyke at Tan Hill, with cow for scale Aug 2011. Copyright K Bragg.

 

Investigation History

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.

StantonStBernard

Figure 7:The Anglo-Saxon estate of Stanton St. Bernard in the Vale of Pewsey, as described by the bounds of the charter of 957 (S647) Source: Draper 2006 Figure 28

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).


Knap Hill

Grid Reference:  SU 1210 6365

Site Overview

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).

 

KnapHillFromNW

Figure 8: Knap Hill from the north west Feb 2010. Copyright K Bragg.

 

Investigation History

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).

 

KnapHill_Cunnington

Figure 9: Knap Hill Camp. Source Cunnington 1911 p44

 

 

Figure 10: Knap Hill Causewayed Camp. Source Connah 1965 Fig 1

 

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.

 

Bibliography

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].

Cunnington, M.E., 1911. Knap Hill Camp. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 37(1), pp.42-65.

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].

Draper, S., 2006. Landscape, Settlement and Society in Roman and early Mediaeval Wiltshire, Oxford: Archaeopress, BAR British Series 419.

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.

Pollard, J. & Reynolds, A., 2002. Avebury: Biography of a Landscape illustrate., The History Press Ltd.

Semple, S., 1998. A Fear of the Past: The Place of the Prehistoric Burial Mound in the Ideology of Middle and Later Anglo-Saxon England. World Archaeology, 30(1), pp.109-126.

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.

Thomas, J., 1999. Understanding the Neolithic 2nd ed., Routledge.

Tubb, P.C., 2011. The LBA/EIA Transition in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (British Series 543).

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Written on November 6th, 2011 , Certificate Year Two, Field Trip

Visit date: 9th October 2011

Weather: grey and overcast, fairly cold.

Introduction

The route of the field trip took us from the Stonehenge carpark towards the Cursus Barrow Group and along the line of the Greater Cursus toward Fargo Plantation. We then walked east, following the fenceline (and the northern bank of the Greater Cursus) to hunt for Amesbury 42 long barrow in the patch of woodland east of the cursus terminus. We then walked to King Barrow Ridge and then followed the Avenue back towards Stonehenge. Risking life and limb, we crossed the road and proceeded to the Normanton Down barrow cemetery.

Greater Cursus

Grid Reference:  From SU 1094 4290 to SU 1375 430 (Grinsell 1957 : 28)

Site Overview

Figure 1: Southern ditch and bank of Stonehenge Cursus. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stonehenge_Cursus.jpg

The Greater Stonehenge Cursus presents as a narrow linear bank enclosing a roughly-rectangular strip of land approximately 100m across and 3km long (Barber 2011 : 2).There is a ditch outside the bank, both of which can still be seen, at least on the southern side as shown in Figure 1. The cursus terminals are on higher ground at either end and the centre section straddles the valley bottom. Stukeley attributes this to the requirement for viewing the activities within the enclosure from either end (Stukeley 2007).


Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1723 Observation Cursus ‘discovered’ by William Stukeley and published in the 1740 edition of Stonehenge, A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids (Thomas et al. 2009). Stukely took pains to measure and describe the cursus, and to justify his interpretation as a site for games or events, based on a possible position for spectators as well as access to the circuit (Stukeley 2007).
1917 Excavation Farrer noted that in his excavation towards the eastern end of the Cursus, it appeared that rather than silting up gradually, the ditch fill was a single event (Thomas et al. 2009: 43)
1947 Excavation JFS Stone excavated an area of the southern ditch  to the east of Fargo Plantation (NMR SU 14 SW 42) and discovered chippings of bluestone and sarsen within the fill. He also discovered what Richards (1990: 96 cited in Thomas et al. 2009: 43) interpreted as a later cutting into the ditch, yielding an antler crown which subsequently was radiocarbon dated to 2890–2460 cal BC (OxA-1403; 4000 +− 120 BP)  and some Late Bronze Age pottery (Thomas et al. 2009: 43).
1959 Excavation Christie (1963) excavated the far western end of the cursus, taking in the terminal end. She discovered that the western bank was enormously substantial, perhaps reminiscent of a long barrow, and a deep flat-bottomed ditch and wide berm between the ditch and bank, and a further berm and bank beyond (Christie 1963 :370). In contrast, she found the north and south sides of the Cursus to be far less substantial but still with flat-bottomed ditches of considerable depth.
1983 Excavations Julian Richards excavated not far from J F S Stone’s 1947 trench and found similar evidence but determined the intrusive vut to be later (Thomas et al. 2009: 44)
2007 Geophysical Survey English Heritage conducted a geophysical assessment of the western end of the Cursus, prior to the investigations of the Stonehenge Riverside Project (Payne 2007). This showed up previously-known earthworks as well as demonstrating where plough damage had reduced the bank of the Cursus.
2007 Excavation The Stonehenge Riverside Project excavated several trenches across the cursus including a reassessment of the western terminal. The results broadly agreed with Christies assessment of the gradual fill, especial as the knapping evidence found was spread throughout the fill and consistent with several events over time (Thomas et al. 2009: 45).
2009 (pub’d) Petrological Analysis Ixer and Bevins analysed the bluestone chips that JFS Stone had found in 1947 and determined them to be of a type also found in the Preseli Hills, but slightly different to those already known at Stonehenge (Ixer & Bevins 2009).

 

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The Greater Cursus was possibly first written about by Stukeley (Amadio & Bishop 2010) and interpreted as having been used for chariot racing  or games (Stukeley 2007 :27), a somewhat simplistic analogy, but one given a reconsideration by David McOmish as a form of trial or ordeal of passage (McOmish 2003).

In view of the difference in construction of the north and south sides compared with the western terminal end, Christie considers that they were perhaps constructed at different times (Thomas et al. 2009, 44). Both Farrer and Stone noted in their excavations that a single fill event was consistent with the ditch fill they excavated (Thomas et al. 2009 :43). In contrast, Christie notes the terminal end fill to be consistent with sequential turf lines formed from the gradual collapse of the edge of the ditch, rather than a single event (Thomas et al. 2009, 44).

In terms of dating, the antler crown from J F S Stone’s intrusive cutting gives far too late a date for a monument of this type (Thomas et al. 2009: 43) and so the 2007 excavations were required to produce further evidence to clarify the situation (Thomas et al. 2009: 45). These produced a date of 3630–3370 cal. BC for samples taken from the terminal ditch.

As Christie was speculative about the terminal and long edges of the Cursus representing different phases owing to the difference in architecture, more evidence may be required to date the structure as a whole. Owing to the seeming alignment of the Cursus on Amesbury 42 long barrow  (see below), it is suggested that this predates the Cursus (Thomas et al. 2009: 51). It would be interesting to see if the suggested elaborate long-barrow-like western terminal end to the Cursus predates the middle section. Thomas et al. seem to think that the alignment on the eastern barrow indicates that the southern section of the cursus was completed first and the northern side laid out using offsets (Thomas et al. 2009: 51), with presumably the terminal as an afterthought, although it’s not clear why this explanation is preferred and how the offsetting would explain the variety in width is not made clear.

Cursus monuments are often considered a ‘processional way’, an interpretation suggested by the paucity of finds within the enclosed area (Barber 2011). Josh Pollard, in a paper entitled ‘Where spirits walk: an archaeology of (dis)embodied non-corporeal movement’ suggested to the audience at the TAG conference in 2011 that such processional ways may not be for corporeal beings at all, and may be intended for the gods or ancestors to traverse. In the case of Cursus monuments, it is not at all clear that they were intended for procession; why go to the effort of creating a flat-bottomed ditch of such depth? In reality, there is no evidence for how the Cursus was intended to be used, if it were ‘used’ at all, and therefore the current interpretation as ‘processional way’ is as valid as any other.

Thomas et. al. (2009 :52) point out that the Cursus predates Stonehenge itself in the landscape, and that the pit-like feature J F S Stone found cut into the side of the Cursus may have been a remodeling of the monument at the time Stonehenge was being designed: a re-ordering of the architecture within the landscape according to some new rules. It might be that the internal area enclosed is set apart, not intended to be encountered (Parker Pearson et al. 2008) therefore perhaps Josh Pollard is right about it being for non-corporeal beings.

 

Amesbury 42 (Goddard)

Grid Reference:  SU 1374 4318

Site Overview

Situated 20m east of the terminus of the Greater Cursus, Amesbury 42 (as listed by Goddard) (NMR SU 14 SW 3) presents as slight earthwork remains, partly within the trees of a plantation and partly under arable cultivation, with the centre of the mound covered by a track (Richards 1990 :96). Stukeley and Colt-Hoare both considered the mound to be part of the Cursus (as seating arrangements) and not a barrow (Cunnington 1914 :383).

Investigation History

Year Investigation type Investigation Details
1866 Excavation Dr Thurnam excavated this barrow and encountered what he deemed to be secondary interments in the monument and was unable to locate a primary interment. He also discovered the head and hooves of domesticated ox within the mound. He notes the ditches of the barrow as being discernable at this point in time (Cunnington 1914 :383-384).
1990 Excavation The remains of the mound were excavated again by the Stonehenge Riverside Project to re-examine the part of the barrow that was under cultivation. This showed that most of the traces of the mound and the soiled buried beneath it had been ploughed away, but that which remained was sampled for environmental evidence. This was consistent with the land surface at the time of the mound construction having been under grass for quite some time (Richards 1990 :98).The excavation showed that the flanking ditch to the east of the barrow had a two-phase construction, with the first being a causewayed ditch, with a larger, deeper ditch cut further to the east as a second phase (Richards 1990 :98).Evidence for (presumably) later use of the site is provided by Beaker and Collared Urn –type pottery in the phase two ditch in the later fill(Richards 1990 :99).

 

Chronology and Current Interpretation

Despite the antiquarian doubts, from Thurnam onwards, this monument has been considered a long barrow, and Thomas et al. (Thomas et al. 2009 :51) considered it to pre-date the cursus (based on the idea that the cursus is aligned on it), but there does not seem to be any direct dating evidence for this as a primary interment was not located. Paul Ashbee suggested that this may have been owing to incomplete excavation (Ashbee 1984 :58), although Thurnam particularly emphasised that he made every effort to locate it (Cunnington 1914).

The monument then had later burials inserted in it from the Beaker period and Ashbee wondered if this was a different class of monument – burials on the peripherary of an otherwise empty mound, placed along its axis (Ashbee 1984 :69). One wonders how, so much later in time, it would be known to be empty, perhaps.

Bibliography

Amadio, L. & Bishop, S., 2010. Stonehenge World Heritage Site Landscape Project: The Cursus Barrows and Surrounding Area. Research Department Report Series no. 85-2010, Swindon: English Heritage. Available at: http://services.english-heritage.org.uk/ResearchReportsPdfs/085_2010WEB.pdf.

Ashbee, P., 1984. The Earthen Long Barrow in Britain 2nd ed., Norwich: Geo Books.

Barber, M., 2011. Introductions to Heritage Assets: Prehistoric Avenues and Alignments, Swindon: English Heritage.

Christie, P.M., 1963. The Stonehenge Cursus. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 58, pp.370-382.

Cunnington, M.E., 1914. List of Long Barrows In Wiltshire. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 38, pp.379-414.

Grinsell, L.V., 1957. Archaeological Gazetteer. In The Victoria County History of Wiltshire Volume 1 Part 1. London: Oxford University Press, pp. 21-279.

Ixer, R.A. & Bevins, R.E., 2009. Stilpnomelane-bearing rhyolites/rhyolitic tuffs at Stonehenge are most probably from the Preseli Hills region [online]. British Archaeology, 109. Available at: http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba109/news.shtml [Accessed May 20, 2012].

McOmish, D., 2003. Cursus: solving a 6,000-year-old puzzle. British Archaeology, (69). Available at: http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba69/feat1.shtml [Accessed March 17, 2012].

Parker Pearson, M. et al., 2008. The Stonehenge Riverside Project: exploring the Neolithic landscape of Stonehenge. Documenta Praehistorica, 35, pp.153-166. Available at: http://arheologija.ff.uni-lj.si/documenta/authors35/thomas35.pdf.

Payne, A.W., 2007. Stonehenge Greater Cursus, Western Terminal, Wiltshire : Report on Geophysical Surveys, May and June 2007. Research Department Reports Number 61/2007, English Heritage. Available at: http://research.english-heritage.org.uk/report/?14572.

Richards, J., 1990. The Stonehenge environs project, London: Historic Buildings & Monuments Commission.

Stukeley, W., 2007. Stonehenge, A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids, Forgotten Books.

Thomas, J. et al., 2009. The date of the Greater Stonehenge Cursus. Antiquity, 83(319), pp.40-53. Available at: http://antiquity.ac.uk/Ant/083/0040/ant0830040.pdf [Accessed December 30, 2010].

 

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Written on October 9th, 2011 , Certificate Year Two, Field Trip

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