For those who may not be familiar with the report on the 2008 excavations, here is a short extract. There is no reason to think that we are looking at anything other than a highly variable deposit laid down over a long period of time -- maybe as much as 5,000 years -- and containing much evidence of human interventions.
The Antiquaries Journal, 89, 2009, pp 1–19 r The Society of Antiquaries of London, 2009
doi:10.1017⁄s000358150900002x. First published online 21 April 2009
STONEHENGE EXCAVATIONS 2008
Timothy Darvill, VPSA, and Geoffrey Wainwright, PSA
Well, the Stonehenge Layer itself turned out to be quite a complicated set of deposits. It is a body of material that has accumulated over quite a long time. Looked at in section it is quite mixed, and we treated it, as I said, as a series of plano levels or spits that we could take apart. Work is still progressing on the analysis of that material, but patterns are already beginning
Looking at the geochemistry, for example, there are discrete concentrations across spit
1 of pH, magnetic susceptibility, copper, iron, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium,
all indicating various localized activities in that deposit. It implies quite small-scale and
discrete deposition of materials and events, even within the small area that we were
examining. Some of those things go right down through the Stonehenge Layer, and some
don’t. In the second spit, for example, we see that copper remains the same, while
magnetic susceptibility changes, and as we go down to the third level, again, some things
hold, some change. It thus seems that we have a whole series of overlapping and intercutting
events within the Stonehenge Layer.
We are still taking that soil apart, and there is a good deal more to do, but we have a
series of artefacts from the Stonehenge Layer – for example, a traditional late Neolithic
asymmetrical arrowhead, a flint hammer that has been used for breaking up stones, two
iron wedges, which have also been used for breaking up stones (they are quite small
wedges) and a human tooth from immediately below the turf.
So, in summary, the Stonehenge Layer is a heterogeneous deposit some 350mm thick.
It has multiple localized spreads of material, with soil stabilization and worm sorting
going on. There is a lot of mixing, and a lot of disturbance in there. There is bluestone
and sarsen in quite some quantity. The bluestone outnumbers the sarsen numerically.
Both types of stone were scattered right through the deposit, but there are several localized
concentrations of broken bluestone.
There is direct evidence of stone breaking in the Stonehenge Layer. The vast majority
of pieces constitute struck or deliberately detached flakes, rather than being simply
random bits of material. They accumulated, as far as we can tell, over a long period –
probably from prehistoric times onwards. Our provisional interpretation is that what we
are looking at is essentially stone robbing, the breaking up of the monument, over a long
period, rather than stone shaping before its construction. We will see as we go on with
further analysis of the material whether this interpretation holds up, but that seems to be
what we are seeing at the moment.