Blick Mead Excavations (Stonehenge)
Professor David Jacques
A very interesting talk by Professor David Jacques from the University of Buckingham and the work going on close to Stonehenge at a farm at Vespasian's Camp, called Blick Mead. He started by saying that although the area around Stonehenge had been been subject to very detailed investigated. However there was an area to the East of the henge that had largely been ignored as estate maps indicated that this area had been heavily landscaped. Professor Jacques, in talking to a local farmer, discovered that the planned work had not all taken place and that a small area might be still contain artefacts in their original context. The farmer, who was very interested in the history of the land he farmed, had even kept a plan of where: pottery, flints and metal had show up when ploughing.
Professor Jacques decided carry out an investigation of this area, although on a very modest scale as, although large amounts of research money had been allocated to the Stonehenge area, this particular area was dismissed by the experts are being archaeologically sterile. The funding for excavations was meagre, just £500, but by gathering a team of volunteers and getting the off-site support from the archaeology departments of a number of universities, he was able to proceed to excavation. The limited budget meant that the scope of the excavations was modest; about the size of the penalty area of a football pitch.
Initially it looked as though the "experts" were correct and that nothing interesting would be found at the excavations but then a layer of broken chalk was found and this confirmed that the site had been used to dump excess spoil from the construction of the A303. After excavation below the spoil a layer of concentrated bone and worked flint was uncovered. While previous excavations in the Stonehenge area had yielded perhaps 30 worked flint fragments, the flint artefacts in this layer were in the thousands!
Dating of the worked and burnt flint indicated that the site had been in continual use between 8000BC and 4000BC, an amazingly long period of time. The animal bone found showed a wide range of beasts had been hunted in the area, the majority being Auroch, a bovine species about three times the size of today's domesticated cows and also various types of red deer. The team was able to find samples of pollen and from these it was possible to say that the site had been meadow at the time and so it could be inferred that some form of land clearance had taken place.
The period of time that these deposits covered extended over a period of great social change with the move from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one where the community cultivated crops and started to use domesticated animals. In addition the physical landscape was also changing with England splitting from continental Europe which would have forced large-scale migration.
The current site provides a keyhole into our ancient past and is unique not only in England but also Europe. For example a recent extension of the initial excavation has reveal a stone-surfaced trackway that extends some distance but this has not yet been fully excavated.
Not everything is good on the site however, as there are plans for major road changes in the vicinity of Stonehenge that could damage or destroy this amazing site. In addition, even if the site is avoided, changes to the water table would lead to the Blick Mead area being drained and, in this new environment, the wealth of bone and pollen, preserved in the marshy ground since the stone age, would be destroyed.
The program of lectures for the next season can now be found under the 'Lectures' tab above.
WNKLAS In The News
The society has been in the local Newspapers recently in coverage of the conference to celebrate our 50year anniversary and also the presentation to John Smallwood one of the founders.
King John's Treasure
The society's investigation of a local farm contributed to a programme made for US television as part of the Expidition Unknown series. This systematic survey of an area that was a likely route for the Royal Treasure was also the subject of a recent lecture evening.