Excavations at Avebury Down

An excavation in a green field

In the summer of 2017 the National Trust and partners* undertook an excavation at the foot of Avebury Down. This was to establish the extent and nature of a known lithics scatter.

To further enhance our knowledge about the prehistory of the Avebury half of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site you occasionally have to dig.

In this instance the aim was to get an understanding of the relationship between any settlement sites and the monuments.  In previous years the area around Avebury Down had shown some scatters of worked flint and the decision was made to investigate these further, to establish the extent of the site and understand the usage, whether it was an established settlement, a seasonal site or just a one-off temporary site.

Excavation took place over three weeks, and during this time a great deal of flint tools were unearthed, dating from as early as the Mesolithic, Neolithic and through to the Bronze Age, indicating that the site was repeatedly visited over a long period of time.  There are indications that large scale flint tool production may have been undertaken here, making use of the good local supply.  As well as this a number of pits, stake holes and a post hole were discovered and both Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery, indicating that there was settlement here for at least some of the time.

There is a great deal of work going on in the post-excavation stage and no doubt this will fill in even more gaps in our knowledge about Avebury.  In the meantime there is an interim report which can be found here Avebury Down interim report (PDF / 2.9MB) download

* This excavation was part of the Living With Monuments project.

The Living with Monuments Project is a joint venue between researchers in the Universities of Southampton, Leicester, Ghent and Cambridge, Allen Environmental Archaeology and the National Trust. It is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council with support in kind from the National Trust and the University of Ghent.

The project’s aim is to redress a critical imbalance in our knowledge of life and cultural landscapes during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age (c.4,000-1500 BC). Accounts of these periods are dominated by interpretive frameworks devised to explain the creation of ceremonial and funerary monuments, which form the most visible and tangible part of its archaeological record in many regions. By contrast, knowledge of the character of contemporary settlement and other non-monument focussed activity lags behind. The project will redress this imbalance through a coherent and innovative programme of targeted fieldwork and reassessment of existing data within one landscape that is famed for its monumental architecture: that of the Avebury region in Wiltshire.