Archaeologists have started a new excavation of Amesbury in an attempt to uncover some of the mysteries of Stonehenge. Amesbury is located in southern Wiltshire, England, and in recent years has revealed some incredible archaeological discoveries, including numerous monuments and artefacts dating back to the Mesolithic era. The major dig due to start soon could help to explain why Stonehenge was built where it was.
Excavations since 2005 have indicated that Amesbury and the surrounding area has been settled for around 10,000 years, much earlier than previous thought. Findings have included large scale prehistoric structures and settlements and numerous monuments around Stonehenge.
The last significant finding occurred at a site called Vespasian’s Camp, approximately 1 mile from Stonehenge, which showed traces of human settlement 3,000 years before nearby Stonehenge was apparently built. David Jacques, a researcher who has directed eleven small excavations between 2005 and 2012, has described the site as “potentially one of the pivotal places in the history of the Stonehenge landscape.”
New excavations will be seeking to establish Amesbury as the oldest continuous settlement in the UK. At the moment, neighbouring region, Thatcham, has evidence for the oldest settlement with well-preserved remains of a Mesolithic settlement dating back to 7,700 BC. In Amesbury, evidence of settlement has been found dating back to 7,596 BC, but archaeologists have not yet reached the bottom section of the trench where previous digs took place, indicating that much older evidence may be found beneath. The team is hoping to find evidence of settlement going back to 10,000 BC.
But the dig is about much more than establishing the oldest date of settlement. The team or archaeologists believe that findings may help to explain why Stonehenge is where it is.
“No-one would have built Stonehenge without there being something really special about the area, said Andy Rhind-Tutt from Amesbury Museum.” There must have been something there beforehand and Amesbury may well be it – [it could be] one of the greatest Mesolithic sites in the country.”
The dig will finish on 25th October and findings from the excavation will be reported then.
The Stonehenge Travel Company (www.StonehengeTravel.co.uk)
Stonehenge Guided Tours from Salisbury