2017 [click to see full summary]
In 2017 the project excavated an extensive lithic scatter on the Foot of Avebury Down originally indentifed in the 1920s by H.G.O. Kendall and W.E.V. Young. The fieldwork represented the first systematic investigation of the dense scatter of worked flint that occupies a key location overlooking Avebury to the west. The scatter was investigated through the excavation of nine trenches, comprising at total area of 421m2. The excavation retrieved a large assemblage of later prehistoric worked flint, alongside smaller assemblages of prehistoric ground stone, pottery and animal bone. The worked flint and pottery is dated to the Neolithic and Bronze Age with a small amount of probably late Mesolithic flintwork also being identified. Beneath the ploughsoil a series of pits, tree throws, stake-holes and post-holes were identified. At least one of the pits dates to the middle Neolithic, whilst a substantial post-hole, likely part of a larger structure, is of Late Neolithic date.
The density and scale of the Foot of Avebury Down scatter is striking. This was a locale that witnessed repeated visitation over at least two millennia. Some of the activity was related to the working of flint nodules, which here outcrop from the chalk slightly upslope from the investigated area. Settlement also occurred, as witnessed by the finds of animal bone, pottery and ephemeral structural traces. Geophysical survey hints at the presence of numerous other pits in addition to those revealed through the excavation. Together, the evidence points to this being a major Neolithic and early Bronze Age site occupying a commanding location in the Avebury landscape.
2018 [click to see full summary]
In 2018 the project shifted its focus to two locations: Butler’s Field, in the Winterbourne valley to the west of Avebury; and Knoll Down, 3km WSW of the henge. Both excavations were aimed at investigating prehistoric settlement and land-use through the excavation of artefact scatters, but were sites of very different character. Butler’s Field is a water meadow that has seen considerable alluvial sediment accumulation since the early Holocene (and especially since the Roman period). Excavation and test pitting by John Evans in the 1980s identified a buried palaeosoil associated with Mesolithic and Neolithic artefacts under a metre of later deposits. At Knoll Down a dense artefact scatter was visibly eroding out of a footpath that runs alongside the Old Bath Road. Whilst the preservation conditions of the two sites are starkly different, the investigation of the scatters indicated that both held the potential to provide detailed insight into the character of occupation of these parts of the landscape during prehistory.