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THE history of the Stonehenge landscape could be rewritten completely after a new discovery by archaeologists.
Remains of a huge ceremonial gathering place were found near Larkhill, dating back to 3650 BC – about 700 years before Stonehenge was built.
The remains, which were discovered during archaeological excavations ahead of construction of new services accommodation, are of a Neolithic enclosure, a major ceremonial gathering place measuring about 200m in diameter.
So far pottery, worked flint, animal bones and human skull fragments have been found in the ditches surrounding the enclosure, which would likely have been used for temporary settlement, exchanging animals and other goods or for feasting and other ritual activities, including the disposal of the dead.
Dr Matt Leivers of Wessex Archaeology said: “This is an exciting new find, and one that transforms our understanding of this important monumental landscape.”
The majority of the site lies within the Larkhill Garrison, where it will remain unaffected by the current works.
Only about 70 enclosures of this type are known across the UK, and they’re thought to be some of the earliest built structures in the British landscape.
Nearby, at Bulford, archaeologists have found a unique double henge, the only known example in Britain, which dates back to around 2900 BC.
Martin Brown, the principal archaeologist for WYG, who are managing and directing the archaeological work on both site, said: “These discoveries are changing the way we think about prehistoric Wiltshire and about the Stonehenge landscape in particular.
“The Neolithic people whose monuments we are exploring shaped the world we inhabit: they were the first farmers and the first people who settled down in this landscape, setting us on the path to the modern world.
“It is an enormous privilege to hold their tools and investigate their lives.”
Article by Rebecca Hudson. Salisbury Journal
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The Anglo Saxon cemetery near Stonehenge: Graves reveal a curious ‘work box’ and ‘fertility’ shells at a site that may have been used for 5,000 years
- Around 150 Anglo Saxon graves found in the village of Bulford, Wiltshire
- Grave goods include a ‘work box’, shells a spear tip and intricate comb
- Nearby site is home to Neolithic chalk goods and carefully arranged bones
- Army site may have been of spiritual significance 5,000 years ago
Salisbury Plain may be best known for Stonehenge, but the chalk plateau hides other secrets too.
Archaeologists have unearthed an Anglo Saxon cemetery of about 150 graves holding beautiful grave goods, including an intricate comb, jewellery, a ‘sewing box’ and intriguing shells in the village of Bulford, Wiltshire.
There are also indications the site has been of spiritual significance for 5,000 years with collections of Neolithic goods suggesting it may also have been an important burial site for Stone Age man.
Experts at Wessex Archaeology excavated the site, earmarked for 227 new Army family homes. It is around four miles from the famous Stonehenge circle.
Investigations revealed about 150 graves from the mid-Anglo-Saxon period in England, with one grave dated to between AD 660 and 780.
It held the remains of an Anglo Saxon woman who died in her mid to late 20s and was laid to rest with two boxes and a cowrie shell.
Simon Cleggett of Wessex Archaeology told MailOnline the grave contained a copper alloy ‘work box’ that may have been used as a little sewing box, because pins have been found in similar cylindrical boxes at other sites.
‘But they might be amuletic [served as a lucky charm] – on some occasions they might contain a piece of bone from a saint or a piece of cloth’ he explained, because at the time Christian influences were spreading across the largely pagan population.
The small cylindrical boxes have been found in tens of Anglo Saxon graves as far north as Northumberland and south as the Thames Valley, according to a study by Catherine Hills of the University of Cambridge.
‘Most have some indication that they could be suspended – they have attachment loops and/or chains,’ she wrote.
The work boxes may have been suspended from a woman’s girdle, but then again, they may have been too fragile and unwieldy and could have been carried in a bag, for example.
The box in the grave was found placed next to the woman’s head, which is relatively unusual as it was more normal for them to be buried by the wearer’s legs, based upon others unearthed.
The boxes have largely only been found in the graves of Anglo Saxon women, as have shells.
Two cowrie shells, possibly from as far away as the Red Sea or India, were also found at the site. Mr Cleggett said they may have come from Cyprus, Egypt, Syria or even India.
‘They are almost always buried with women and children,’ he said, explaining they may have symbolised fertility.
Because of the shells’ origins, they shed light on trade links at the time, stretching across the Mediterranean sea and beyond.
One large shell was found in the woman’s grave along with the work box, while another – buried with a child – has a hole in it, meaning it could have been used as a pendant.
Read the full story and see the image gallery on the Daily Mail website
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Stonehenge and Salisbury guided Tours
There are still some spaces left for the 20th February and 20th March open days from 12pm -2pm at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre. These are free events but you must pre book and call 0870 3331183 stating Stonehenge Community Open Days as the event you want to book onto. You can book up to 4 people and must be a Wiltshire resident.
The Stonehenge Learning and Outreach Group with ourselves, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, Wiltshire Museum Devizes, Wessex Archaeology and National Trust will meet this week and share their learning events that are happening too.
Join us for a series of open days for the local community at the new Stonehenge visitor centre, featuring a special tour with Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian and Lisa Holmes, Community Projects manager.
Come and find out about the making of the exhibition, the opportunities for local voices to contribute to future exhibitions and how you will be able to make use of the centre for learning events.
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