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For a town which has such a close association with Stonehenge, a history of royal patronage, military activity and Arthurian legend, it has always seemed strange to me that there was no museum or interpretation centre.
In 2012 that situation changed when the Town Council purchased Melor Hall on Church Street and with the help of a team of volunteers created what has become the Amesbury History Centre.
The centre is open from 10am until 3.30pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and is an excellent starting point for your exploration of this remarkable area. Tour groups and educational visits are welcomed and you can book in advance to have exclusive access to the facilities.
Exhibits and displays tell you about the discovery of the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer settlement at Blick Mead which dates back at least 10,000 years and has led the Guinness Book of Records to label Amesbury as the longest continually inhabited settlement in Britain.
Finds from the University of Buckingham’s archaeological digs from the last several years are on show, from Mesolithic flint tools and bones of prehistoric cattle called aurochs through to the astonishing magenta pink flints that are found in the spring.
You can also learn about the discovery of the Amesbury Archer, a Bronze Age burial found in 2002 when a new housing estate was being built in the town.
This man was obviously someone of huge importance because he was buried with extensive grave goods including five beaker pots, three copper knives, 16 barbed flint arrowheads, some boar’s tusks, a flint-knapping and metalworking kit and two beautiful gold hair ornaments – the earliest gold yet found in England.
Analysis of the Archer’s teeth indicates that he wasn’t a local man, but had travelled from central Europe. He may have been one of the first metalworkers to bring his skill to Britain.
Amesbury’s fascinating history continues through the Iron Age, Roman Britain, Anglo-Saxon times and beyond. There is a tale that the legendary King Arthur’s wife Guinevere retired to a convent in the town.
Outside of legend, Henry III’s wife Eleanor of Provence was buried within the grounds of Amesbury Abbey in 1291 although her burial place has been lost and she is the only Queen of England with no known grave.
In more modern times, the military have had a large presence in the surrounding area beginning over 100 years ago with the use and eventual purchase of land on Salisbury Plain for their training.
Nearby, military aviation began at Larkhill in the early 20th century and later Boscombe Down airfield – Britain’s “Area 51” – was the site of the development of many types of experimental aircraft.
All these stories are told in the History Centre, which also has an extensive reference library, maps, interactive models and souvenirs as well as excellent tea and cakes.
Outside in the car park there is the famous mural that used to adorn the wall of the underpass that led up to Stonehenge from the old visitor centre, so if you’ve ever had your photo taken pretending to climb over the stones into the middle of the monument, you can recreate it here.
The Amesbury History Centre has its own website (http://www.amesburyhistorycentre.co.uk/) where you can find out more.
Article submitted by local historian Simon Banton
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‘Exciting’ Bronze Age cremation site is unearthed near Stonehenge…by a BADGER: Human remains and 4,000-year-old artefacts found near the animal’s sett
- A badger dug up an urn from burial mound on Netheravon Down, Wiltshire
- Archaeologists then conducted an excavation of the 4,000-year-old site
- Cremated human remains and tools dating back to 2,200BC were found
- Wrist guards and tools suggest the grave may have belonged to an archer
The Stonehenge site has been scoured by archaeologists for decades as they attempt to learn more about the history of the land around Britain’s famous ancient monument.
But the latest discovery at the site has been excavated by a rather unlikely source – a badger.
A Bronze Age cremation site was found after badgers dug into an ancient burial mound on land belonging to the Ministry of Defence at Netheravon in Wiltshire.
Artefacts including Bronze Age tools, a flint knife, pottery and an archer’s wrist guard, dating back to between 2,200BC and 2,000BC, were discovered alongside cremated human remains at a site that sits just 5 miles (8km) from the monument.
Archaeologists spotted the site after a badger unearthed a cremation urn and left shards of pottery lying on the ground around the burial mound.
Richard Osgood, senior archaeologist at the MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation, led an excavation of the site and described it as an ‘exciting find’.
Experts have said the discovery may be of similar significance to the famous Amesbury Archer, which was found in 2002.
Please read the full story and see images of exactly what was found.
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ANTHROPOLOGIST and BBC TV Coast and Origins of Us presenter Dr Alice Robertswill open Salisbury Museum’s new £2.4m Wessex Gallery on Saturday (Salisbury Journal).
The new gallery will house one of Europe’s most extensive collections of Stonehenge and prehistoric artefacts including the Amesbury Archer – popularly dubbed the King of Stonehenge and the Wardour Hoard.
To mark the event the museum will be hosting an admission-free day of action-packed celebrations, special events, living history displays and demonstrations of traditional skills and crafts.
There will also be other celebrity guests including Channel 4 Time Team presenter and field archaeologist Phil Harding, who will be demonstrating flint knapping – the ancient art of shaping tools and weapons from stones – which early the Britons used.
Along with a free view of the new Wessex Gallery, members of the public will have the opportunity to see Norman falconry displays, try on Norman dresses, or get suited and booted in a knight’s hefty chainmail armour complete with sword.
There will also be ancient coppicing, stone masonry, pottery-making and wool dyeing demonstrations as well as a chance for people to try their hand at reconstructing a prehistoric face, carve a Stone Age chalk animal and experience an Anglo Saxon burial ritual.
Museum director Adrian Green said: “The grand opening of our new Wessex Gallery is going to be a fantastic all-day event with lots of exciting activities to see and do for all age groups.
“It’s also a great opportunity for people to see our amazing new Wessex Gallery which brings the prehistory and history of Stonehenge and Wessex to life.”
The Wessex Gallery Grand Opening is on Saturday, 12 July from 10am to 4pm at Salisbury Museum, The Close.
For more information call 01722 332151 or visit: www.salisburymuseum.org.uk.
Read the full article in the Salisbury Journal: http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/11321466.New_gallery_set_to_open/?ref=var_0
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Salisbury’s exact connection to Stonehenge and the story of Bronze Age Britain will be told in spectacular style at a new gallery set to open next year
The remains of the Amesbury Archer, the Bronze Age man whose arrow-littered grave held the largest
collection of artefacts ever found in a burial from the era, will form the skeletal centre of a much-anticipated new gallery full of Stonehenge stories at Salisbury Museum.
A gneiss mace-head, found by Colonel William Hawley in 1924, and an axe and dagger which were found to match the carvings on stone 53 when they were discovered in 1953, will appear in the Wessex Gallery of Archaeology.
The £2 million space will knock through and combine the astonishing Pitt Rivers Archaeological Collection and the Early Man gallery.
Nottingham-based architects Metaphor will emphasise the theme of discovery in their design, with building beginning this week. Curators say the corridors will explain precisely why the Wiltshire town and its World Heritage Sites play a crucial part in the history of Britain, using timber flooring and glass-reinforced concrete to recreate the feel of the terrain through the centuries.
“By Christmas this year the major construction work will be complete,” revealed museum director Adrian Green, pronouncing himself “absolutely overjoyed” to be creating a “world class gallery of archaeology”.
“We are developing an integrated approach to the interpretation of Stonehenge.
“It means that the Salisbury Museum will be able to create exhibitions directly relating to new displays in the Stonehenge Visitor Centre.
“If you like, we will all be part of the same extended conversation.
“Metaphor have a very impressive CV. Their recent work includes the Holburne Museum in Bath and the Ashmolean, Oxford, in addition to smaller projects such as the refurbishment of the Museum of the Order of St John in Clerkenwell.”
Despite being Grade I-listed and facing Salisbury Cathedral, Green says the museum’s finds from Northern Europe have long been a “best-kept secret”, and expects the museum to “step out of the shadows” when the gallery opens next summer. Antler picks, animal bones, flint and stone tools, chalk plaques and pottery all feature.
The museum has already lent around 250 objects to the visitor centre at Stonehenge.
Full story: : http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/megaliths-and-prehistoric-archaeology/art460402#.UqVl6oUD_Ug.twitter
If you are visiting Salisbury organise a private guided tour of Wessex with a local expert: http://stonehengetravel.co.uk
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