Visit date: 6th May 2012

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


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.


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: [Accessed May 20, 2012].



Visit date: 5th May 2012

Weather: Cold and windy, bright but cloudy


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.


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:



Visit date: 4th March 2012

Weather: Initially driving rain, then blizzard


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).


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).


Visit date: 15th January 2012

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


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:

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).


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: [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: [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:

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: [Accessed December 19, 2011].

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)


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



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.


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).



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).



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.



Anon, 2012. Charter S647. Electronic Sawyer. Available at: [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: [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: [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:

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: [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: [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: [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).

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

Visit date: 9th October 2011

Weather: grey and overcast, fairly cold.


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:

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.


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:

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: [Accessed May 20, 2012].

McOmish, D., 2003. Cursus: solving a 6,000-year-old puzzle. British Archaeology, (69). Available at: [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:

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:

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: [Accessed December 30, 2010].


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

Stokeleigh Camp, Leigh Woods, Bristol

Grid Reference: ST 5595 7328

Overview of Activities

The site selected for the survey was an Iron Age hillfort in Leigh Woods: Stokeleigh Camp (ST558733). Although the ramparts have mostly been cleared of tree cover, the site is still surrounded by trees, which made finding a suitable benchmark, to tie it to the national grid, tricky. Therefore a divorced survey was proposed and meant that we could concentrate on the surveying techniques within our own site grid without worrying about the exact location. The site grid was set in such a way that the origin was 1000, 1000 (to avoid the need for negative numbers).

We had already prepared the drawing boards with centimetre grid paper and a layer of Permatrace over the top.

We started by performing a reconnaissance of the site: walking the length of the ramparts to judge which parts would be suitable for the surveying exercise. We were slightly limited in our choice due to the equipment, as to record the rampart via offsetting techniques would have required us to be able to hold the tape level at the highest point of the bank, and that would not have been possible in some places due to the height of the bank.


Bank with ranging rods sticking out of it

Part of area selected for survey (a nice low bank). Copyright K Bragg 2011.

We therefore selected an area at the modern entrance to the site as having both interesting lumps and bumps to look at, and also a slightly lower bank that could be reached with a horizontal tape held at the top of a ranging pole.

The next step was to choose a point to act as the master control point for the survey. The criteria for the location for this were that it would afford visibility to all the points we wished to include. We selected a knoll in the centre of the study area as giving a good view of the earthworks and put up a ranging pole as point A. It should be noted that I used my own convention for recording points, which is simply to start at A and work through the alphabet. My first point is the master control point, by convention.

Point B was chosen at the base of the main (inner) rampart of the site and the distance from point A to point B was recorded by extending a fibreglass surveyors tape perpendicular (i.e. perfectly horizontally as we need a plan view and therefore need to ignore the contours of the ground) to the poles and measuring the horizontal distance between them. Point C was then added and then the distance from C–>B and A–>C recorded in the same way. These three points were then drawn onto the site grid at 1:500 using a scale ruler to work out how far each point was from the other point and therefore plot the intersection of the two distances to give the third point (which would have been easier with a pair of compasses). Further points were added, up to point H, and drawn onto the plan.

This framework of points formed the skeleton of the plan drawing of the site, and the lines between the points could then be used as a basis for offsetting. This involved setting out the tape exactly perpendicular to the pole at either end (sometimes involving holding the tape half-way up the pole when the ground surface was not flat) and then traversing down it at intervals, taking measurements at 90 degrees to the baseline tape to record slopes and other features as a distance from the baseline. Each time there was a break in slope, or something interesting to record, a distance reading was taken, and a note made of what the recording was of e.g. change from gentle slope to steeper slope. In this way we know at what distance from our baseline the slope changes, and therefore when constructing a hachure plan, we know at what point to change the weight of the hachures.

Armed with this information it is then possible to update our framework plan with the actual shape of the earthworks (in the horizontal dimension, we did not take levels to determine heights, so the heights indicated by the hachures will be approximate and based solely on a guess at relative slope angle). This work is yet to be completed.

Once we had understood the principles involved in setting out control points using tapes, the Total Station was set up and used to plot the locations of a set of new control points. This involved pointing the Total Station at a prism on a pole, and writing down the reading obtained by the device bouncing laser beams off the prism and measuring the response time. The Total Station had been configured with an arbitrary North point, to make plotting the points easier. This can be translated to magnetic North by calculating the difference in angle. The control points we set out with the Total Station were all designed to allow us to tackle the inner bank of the ramparts (we had previously concentrated on what looked to be a building just inside the ramparts). Using the same offsetting technique, we wrote down the distances at which the slope changed character in order to draw it at the next session.


total station

Paul setting up the Total Station. Copyright K Bragg 2011

Written on May 8th, 2011 , Certificate Year One, Field Trip, Fieldwork Tags:

Warmley Historic Gardens

Grid Reference: ST 6692 7283

Site Overview

You may consider that Warmley Historic Gardens is a perfectly normal gentleman’s residence and accompanying gardens, but the constructer, William Champion, was an industrialist and each part of his home and garden contains a clue to that industrial past.

The secret to Champion’s initial success was that he was the first in Europe to develop a technique for producing metallic zinc on a truly commercial scale (Bryant & Howes 1991). This was patented in 1738 (Dungworth & White 2007, 1).

Investigation History

Excavations in 1986 near the Clocktower building, as a result of construction work, exposed remains consistent with cementation furnaces (Dungworth & White 2007, 3).

Avon Archaeological Unit have also excavated and discovered industrial debris, but their findings are unpublished (Dungworth & White 2007, 4). The Pastscape listing records an 1987 excavation by Avon Industrial Building Trust (Pastscape Website 2010).

An emergency excavation carried out by English Heritage in 2006 recorded a number of exposed industrial features and artefacts, including slag bricks, clinker, refractory material and zinc-rich deposits, which have been analysed to attempt to learn more about Champion’s processes (Dungworth & White 2007,4). This analysis may reveal more about the industrial archaeology of the site than the documentary evidence, owing to the fact that Champion’s patent revealed very little of his actual technique, and there was an effort to hide the secrets from any visitors (Dungworth & White 2007, 14).

Chronology and Current Interpretation

William Champion built and owned the first multi-process integrated production plant of its kind, based in his gardens at Warmley. It was not his first site, he had a works in Bristol near Old Market Street, but in 1742 he started to move his operations to Warmley (Bryant & Howes 1991,6). All processes to do with the manufacture of brass were carried out on this new site: from the smelting to the actual manufacture of sheet and wire brass, to the forming into objects such as pins and kettles (Dungworth & White 2007, 1).

His garden was an integral part of the works: the water for the mills was managed by the damming of the Siston Brook to form a 13 acre lake (now the caravan park). The Summerhouse was actually a set of sluice gates disguised as a folly. The statue of Neptune in the middle of the lake was constructed from the industrial waste of copper production, and the grotto and chequered garden also incorporate this industrial material (Bryant & Howes 1991).

Chequered Garden Wall. Copyright K Bragg 2011

Even the grottos may have industrial secrets about them: when we were looking around, it seemed to us that they were a bit more than decorative, there seemed to be excessive water management arrangements.

Sadly, William Champion overextended himself, and his vast complex, which in 1761 included 22 copper furnaces, 15 brass furnaces, 5 zinc furnaces, one wire mill, three rolling mills and five battery mills had to be sold, due to the financial collapse of Champion’s company in 1767 (Dungworth & White 2007, 2).

Dyrham Park

Grid Reference: ST 745757

Site Overview

Dyrham Park today is a National Trust property and encompasses a 17th Century house with gardens surrounding it. Closer inspection of the house reveals that the front and rear facades are 17th Century but that the inner building is Tudor in date.

dyrham park house from neptune hill

Dyrham Park. Copyright K Bragg 2011

Within the grounds of the house is the church of St Peter, which is the village church for Dyrham.

The house is grade 1 listed by English Heritage, as is the church, whilst the park around the house is grade 2* (Smith et al. 2002, 2).

The site of the house is at the bottom of a re-entrant valley and is overlooked by hills on either side. There are natural springs in these hills, which may have made the area favourable for settlement as a reliable water source (Smith et al. 2002, 3).

One of our tasks on this field trip was to compare an engraving made of the formal gardens of the 17th Century, to the present state of the land and to establish how much of the image represented what had been there, and how much was flattery or tricks of perspective.

Investigation History

A geophysical survey of the West Garden revealed some of the features shown on an engraving made by Johannes Kip in 1712, which had been obscured and slighted by subsequent garden design and service trenches (Papworth 2001). This also revealed a rectangular building outline on a different alignment to the current house and garden.

Richard McDonnell compiled an archaeological assessment of the park in 2000, and AC Archaeology undertook archaeological monitoring in 2007 as the Serpentine pathway was being constructed (S Driscoll pers. comm.). Absolute Archaeology performed a watching brief at Dyrham House to observe the trench of a copper pipe as it was replaced. This showed evidence of a potential Romano-British settlement in the vicinity of Dyrham House (Martin 2011 (forthcoming)).

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The area around Dyrham has produced archaeological artefacts dating from the Iron Age onwards, and the fields systems that can be seen near the Iron Age hillfort at Hinton may well be associated with that site (Smith et al. 2002, 4).

Evidence for Roman settlement is quite strong (S Driscoll pers. comm.) based on some unpublished excavations in the gardens, and there were Roman burials found less than a mile South of the park (Smith et al. 2002, 4).

The earliest written evidence for Dyrham comes from a 9th century document(Smith et al. 2002, 5) and a place called Deorham is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle as being the site of a famous battle in 577 (Prior 2006, 74), but as Deorham means ‘ an enclosed valley frequented by deer’(Garnett 2000, 3), there may possibly be more than one and my copy spells it Derham.

There is also evidence for medieval strip lynchets on the hill slopes within the park area, so it’s reasonable to say that the area around Dyrham has been used for settlement since at least the Iron Age, if not before.

The house as visible today dates from the time of William Blathwayt, who, between 1692-1704 transformed the existing Tudor house into a baroque mansion, influenced by the Dutch style and accompanied by formal gardens (Garnett 2000, 3).

Various documents attest to the existence of the formal gardens: bills, accounts, letters, and the Kip engraving (Smith et al. 2002, 4). The East garden seems to have been the earliest (Smith et al. 2002, 7) and contained a cascade of 225 steps down from the statue of Neptune and into a canal (Garnett 2000, 23). There does not seem to be any earthworks to show where this canal was and the statue of Neptune is now higher up the hill than originally placed but it might be that the edges of the cascade are visible as slight earthworks (Smith et al. 2002, 15).

Maintaining formal gardens is an expensive undertaking, and documentary sources record that by 1779 the gardens were neglected and decaying (Garnett 2000, 25). The gardens were re-landscaped in the romantic style, so as to appear as naturalistic as possible and erasing much of the formal landscape in the process.


  • Bryant, A. & Howes, L., 1991. Warmley Historic Gardens, A. Bryant & L. Howes.
  • Dungworth, D. & White, H., 2007. Warmley Brassworks, Siston, Bristol Analysis of some Eighteenth-Century Brassworking Debris, English Heritage.
  • Garnett, O., 2000. Dyrham Park, Swindon: The National Trust.
  • Martin, P.W., 2011. The Results of a Watching Brief in the West Gardens of Dyrham Park
  • Papworth, M., 2001. Dyrham Park: Evaluation Trenches in the West Garden [Online]. National Trust Annual Archaeological Review, pp.63-64. Available at:
  • Pastscape Website, 2010. Warmley Brass Works [online]. Available at: [Accessed May 15, 2011].
  • Prior, S.J., 2006. A Few Well Positioned Castles: the Norman Art of War, Stroud: Tempus Publishing Ltd.
  • Smith, N., Calder, M. & Field, D., 2002. Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire, English Heritage.

Roman Cirencester

Roman Cirencester was known as Corinium Dubunnorum and was the civitas capital of the Dobunni tribe who lived in that area when the Romans invaded. Cirencester is likely to have started out as the vicus that grew around the fort placed near the Iron Age hillfort of Bagendon in the mid-40s AD. Bagendon continued to prosper and was still in occupation at around AD60, but the growth of the vicus presumably attracted the population away from the hillfort (Wacher 1975, 304).

The fort was evacuated in AD70 and the vicus expanded to fill the gap, with the ditches filled in and built over. This caused the basilica to suffer subsidence problems as it was built over a ditch (Wacher 1975, 306).

When Britain was divided into four Provinces in 312-4AD, the Province of Britannia Prima was probably governed from Corinium (de la Bedoyere 2010, 89).

Corinium Amphitheatre

Grid Reference: SP0201 0141

Site Overview

The site today is visible as grassed-over earthworks of a considerable height: it still looks very much like an amphitheatre and the two entrances are clearly discernable. Much of the land around the amphitheatre is also noticeably altered and this area has been used to quarry stone from the Roman period onwards (Wacher 1975, 305).


Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre. Copyright K Bragg 2011

The amphitheatre is oval, with the central arena area measuring 41m by 49m (Pastscape Website 2010) with the entrances at the centre of the points of the oval. The widths of the banks that were used for seating platforms were probably about 30m wide (Wacher 1975, 308).

Amphitheatres would have been paid for from the public purse, or a rich sponsor, but not by the Roman authorities (Wacher 1971, 6). It would have been a sign of great status to be able to sponsor entertainments and games, and would have been a way to show to your neighbours how successful you were and also, how Roman you were by subscribing to their ideas of civic benefaction (Cleary 1999, 161).

Investigation History

The amphitheatre was excavated in the 19th Century, and again in 1960 by J S Wacher (Pastscape Website 2010). He excavated the Northeastern entrance to the arena, and part of the seating bank.

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The earliest phase of the amphitheatre was constructing with seating set on limestone rubble overlaid with turf. The entrances were partially revetted with stone and lined in timber. The amphitheatre was later reinforced, by the addition of masonry walls, during the early 2nd Century (Wacher 1975, 307).

Amphitheatres were used for displays of combat be it using gladiators or wild animals (Mattingly 2007, 282). Owing to the dangerous nature of these displays, the amphitheatre was usually located outside the town walls, to protect the citizens (Branigan 1980, 108).

When Christianity became the state religion, it may have been prohibited to have displays of gladiatorial combat, or wild animal hunting in the arena (Wacher 1971, 26). Whatever the reason, excavation shows that the amphitheatre at Corinium was altered in the 4th century, and was possibly no longer in use for its original purpose and may have become a venue for trade outside the town walls (Wacher 1971, 26).

Corinium Wall

Grid Reference: SP 02735 02200

Site Overview

Visible today is an earthwork bank faced with a wall made using both rubble and faced stone. The outline of a bastion can also be clearly seen. It is worth noting from the outset that the Department of the Environment were responsible for stabilising the masonry remains (Cullen 1970) and therefore this should be taken into account when viewing the remains today.

Cirencester Roman Wall

Extant wall remains, Cirencester. Copyright P Bragg 2011

Corinium grew up from the vicus surrounding a dismantled fort (de la Bedoyere 2010, 114), and it seems that it was laid out deliberately to form a grid. What this plan did not include is walled defences (Wacher 1971, 11), perhaps because the South of the province was relatively peaceful and the troubled frontiers were Wales and the North (Wacher 1971, 13). So the town wall was not an original part of the town and was put in place after the main public buildings were in place (de la Bedoyere 2010, 154).

Investigation History

The wall was excavated by Wacher in 1960, then by Mr P D C Brown in 1966, and then reconstructed by the Department for the Environment (Cullen 1970).

Chronology and Current Interpretation

Wacher excavated the section of wall we visited and discovered that the first phase of the wall was a simple earthwork, easy to put up in a hurry and not requiring the services of skilled masons. He also notes that there is evidence for the Verulamium gate, grand and built in stone, having predated this earthwork bank and suggests that there was a plan to build in stone, but necessity to build quickly caused earthworks to be put up instead (Wacher 1971, 13).

A second phase of defence construction appears in the 3rd Century and the earthwork bank was made more permanent by the construction of a stone wall. Two different thicknesses of wall have been found, in alternating sections of the wall, and it is not clear if the whole town wall would have been walled in this manner, or if the different thicknesses reflect a change in plan on the part of the builders (Wacher 1971, 13).

Cullen notes that five phases were recognisable and confirms that the wall had two distinct widths (Cullen 1970). The phases Cullen lists were:
1) Earthwork bank
2) A tower was added to the top of the bank with the footings cutting through it, which was then protected by an earthwork rampart around the tower
3) Removal of the front of this rampart and turret and facing with a four foot stone wall and increasing the height of the rampart behind the wall
4) This wall was removed and replaced with a wider wall and heightening the rampart
5) A bastion was added to the front of the wall

Wacher considers the bastions to be a 4th Century addition to the wall, stating the war with the Picts as a cause of increased tension and towns looking to their defences (Wacher 1971, 25). This tie-in with historical events to explain the phases of town evolution is contradicted by de la Bedoyere (de la Bedoyere 2010, 154).

Further work to the wall was performed and a flood gate added to stop the diverted River Churn from undermining the wall. It had been diverted away from the centre of the town, to flow around the outskirts (Wacher 1971, 25).


  • Branigan, K., 1980. Roman Britain: Life in an imperial province, Reader’s Digest.
  • Cleary, S.E., 1999. Roman Britain: Civil and Rural Society. In J. Hunter & I. Ralston, eds. The Archaeology of Britain: An Introduction from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Industrial Revolution. Milton Park, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 157-175.
  • Cullen, P.R., 1970. Cirencester: The Restoration of the Roman Town Wall, 1967-68. Britannia, 1(1970), p.227. Available at:
  • de la Bedoyere, G., 2010. Roman Britain: A New History, Thames {&} Hudson.
  • Mattingly, D., 2007. An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC – AD 409, Penguin.
  • Pastscape Website, 2010. Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre [online]. Available at: [Accessed May 5, 2011].
  • Wacher, J., 1971. Corinium, London: Ginn and Company Ltd.
  • Wacher, J., 1975. The Towns of Roman Britain 2nd ed., London: Batsford Ltd.
Written on January 9th, 2011 , Certificate Year One, Field Trip Tags: ,

Windmill Hill

Grid Reference: SU08657145

Site Overview

Windmill Hill is the site of a Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure and a selection of later Bronze Age round barrows, one of which seems to have the indentation caused by the eponymous windmill in it. The site itself is currently surrounded by open grassland, and agriculture has erased some of the site on one side of the fenceline, as we observed. The site is part of the World Heritage Site of Avebury and part of the wider ritual landscape that includes the extant monuments at Avebury, West Kennet, Silbury Hill and sites such as The Santuary on Overton Hill.

The Causewayed Enclosure is formed of three oval circuits of interrupted ditches with causeways in between the ditches. The area covered by the site is approximately 20 acres and is on the lower and middle chalk (Wiltshire SMR 2011).

Environmental evidence points towards a wooded environment at the time of construction of the causewayed enclosure (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 55), and the viewshed observable today would not have featured in the prehistoric use of the site. The site would still have been in a prominent position and therefore the woodland would not have entirely concealed its presence (Whittle et al. 1999, 347).

The site ‘faces’ North and Smith notes that it is common for causewayed enclosures to fall across contours of hill rather than following them (Smith 1971, 111).

Investigation History

William Stukeley was perhaps the first person to record the existence of the site, in the 1720s and excavations by HGO Kendal in the 1920s provided a Neolithic date for the site (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 28). This was a decade after Maud Cunnington had suggested a Neolithic date for the causewayed enclosure at Knap Hill, some miles to the South (Cunnington 1909).

Excavations of all three circuits was carried out by Alexander Keiller, after he purchased the site (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 49), and published posthumously by Isobel Smith (Thomas 1999, 40). Evidence for various activities included pottery, worked stone and fragments of animal bone (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 49).


Later excavations by Whittle et. al shed light on the chronology of the site, demonstrating that the three circuits were probably all of a similar date (as far as the resolution of the dating techniques can determine) and probably in use at the same time (Whittle et al. 1999).

The excavation also discovered a burial that predated the causewayed enclosure (Wiltshire SMR 2011), possibly evidence for the importance of the site even before the causewayed enclosure was constructed.

Chronology and Current Interpretation

The causewayed enclosure provided radiocarbon dates from the Early Neolithic, about the middle of the 4th millennium BC.

It is difficult, however, to categorise what precisely the site was in use as, but perhaps this is not necessary, or appropriate. Excavation has revealed artefacts relating to all facets of daily life, perhaps indicating that the site could be used for any or all activities (Whittle 2003) and provides evidence for domesticated animals, non-local clay sources in the pottery fabric, treatment of the dead, farming and potentially exchange of goods (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 50).

If we interpret the silting up of the ditches to mean that the site went out of use, then even after this point, the site was still an important place, and deposits still made (Bradley 2000, 106). But the site demonstrates that the area was still in use, at least occasionally, well into the third millennium (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 50).

West Kennet Long Barrow

Grid Reference: SU10456774

Site Overview

West Kennet Long Barrow is a 100m-long mound of earth with a megalithic core at the Eastern end comprising five chambers used for interment of human remains during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. It is generally given as an outlier of the Cotswold-Severn style of megalithic chambered tomb, similar to Waylands Smithy in Berkshire (Piggott 1962, 58).

It is false-cresting the end of a North-facing spur of land, above Swallowhead Springs, and so appears on the skyline to people at the foot of the hill. It is aligned East-West and facing East, that is to say that the facade and entrance are at the Eastern end.

The facade of the site as visible today is a reconstruction and not representative of the original state of the barrow before excavation in 1955 (Paul Tubb pers. comm.).

Investigation History

There is evidence to indicate that a 17th Century doctor Dr Toope had potentially raided the West Kennet long barrow looking for human skeletal material for a ‘medicine’. Certainly Piggott records disturbance to the Eastern end of the monument, and the introduction of later material into the disturbed areas (Piggott 1962, 4).

The next recorded investigator of the barrow, was Dr Thurnam, in 1859, who tunnelled into the Western chamber and cleared it. Thankfully, Dr Thurnam did not realise the full extent of the megalithic structure and concluded that this Western chamber was the only one and so left the rest of the chambers for later excavation and recording (Piggott 1962, 5). He did, however, discover human remains, of which four skeletons appeared articulated (Piggott 1962, 6). Also discovered was late Neolithic and Beaker pottery, adding greatly to the confusion that the misleading diagrams and plans of the excavation caused (Piggott 1962, 5).

The most recent investigation was performed by Stuart Piggott and Richard Atkinson in 1955, undertaken to try and explain Dr Thurnam’s findings and establish the true extent of the megalithic structure (Piggott 1962, 7). The findings from this excavation were that there were more than 40 individuals represented within the barrow, with 30 adults or adolescents (Piggott 1962, 24). Not all skeletons were complete, with evidence for sorting of skeletal material into long bones and skulls after the bodies had decayed being the fact that the small bones are present, which may be assumed shows the body was intact when deposited (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 66). This implies that the chambers were open or at least accessible during the period that this use continued. Radiocarbon dates suggest that the earliest burials introduced into the monument are those still in an articulated state, which contradicts this theory somewhat (Pollard & Reynolds 2002,66), but it may be there was a reason that some bodies were not required to be sorted into components.

Chronology and Current Interpretation

From the radiocarbon dates obtained from the primary interments, a date of 3670-3635 cal. BC is obtained, with the last deposit dated to 3640-3610 cal. BC giving a surprising short period of primary deposition (Bayliss et al. 2007).

Whilst the period of primary interment may be short, the duration suggested for the use of the site for secondary interment (for introducing and removing of skeletal material) (Pollard 2005, 109) was much longer.

Thomas suggested that the role of the long barrow in the treatment of the dead may be one of transformation: articulated (fleshed) corpses introduced to the monument and allowed to decay before being ‘sorted’ and distributed appropriately within the monument. He argues that the secondary deposits that include broken pottery were also subject to this process and broken and separated much as the skeletons had been (Thomas 1999, 206).

Thomas also suggested the idea of the circulation of skeletal material being a kind of economy in which ancestral remains could be transferred and gifted between communities (Thomas 2000).

It is clear that burial practice in the Neolithic was about much more than simply disposing of the dead, and the mortuary rituals were complex and extended.


Bayliss, A., Whittle, A. & Wysocki, M., 2007. Talking About My Generation: the Date of the West Kennet Long Barrow. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 17(S1), p.85. Available at: [Accessed February 11, 2011].
Bradley, R., 2000. An Archaeology of Natural Places 1st ed., Routledge.
Cunnington, M., 1909. 28. On a Remarkable Feature in the Entrenchments of Knap Hill Camp, Wiltshire. Man, 9(1909), p.49–52. Available at: [Accessed January 11, 2011].
Piggott, S., 1962. The West Kennet Long Barrow excavations, 1955-56, H.M.S.O.
Pollard, J., 2005. Memory, Monuments and Middens in the Neolithic Landscape. In G. Brown, D. Field, & D. McOmish, eds. The Avebury Landscape: Aspects of the Field Archaeology of the Marlborough Downs. Oxford: Oxbow Books Limited.
Pollard, J. & Reynolds, A., 2002. Avebury: Biography of a Landscape illustrate., The History Press Ltd.
Smith, I.F., 1971. Causewayed Enclosures. In D. D. A. Simpson, ed. Economy and settlement in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain and Europe. Leicester University Press, pp. 89-112.
Thomas, J., 2000. Death, identity and the body in neolithic Britain. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 6(4), pp.653-668. Available at:
Thomas, J., 1999. Understanding the Neolithic 2nd ed., Routledge.
Whittle, A., 2003. The Archaeology of People: Dimensions of Neolithic Life 1st ed., Routledge.
Whittle, A., Grigson, C. & Pollard, J., 1999. The harmony of symbols: the Windmill Hill causewayed enclosure, Wiltshire, Oxbow Books.
Wiltshire SMR, 2011. Windmill Hill, Avebury [online]. Available at: [Accessed May 11, 2011].


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