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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

More on Blick Mead / Vespasian's Camp


 
The New Discoveries at Blick Mead: the Key to the Stonehenge Landscape
http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/research/hri/blickmead

An archaeological team from the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute has been uncovering very large amounts of Mesolithic material from a site immediately adjacent to Stonehenge. At a point called Blick Mead (a part of the Stonehenge landscape known as ‘Vespasian’s Camp’ on the mistaken assumption that it was the remains of a former Roman settlement) around 12,000 pieces of worked flint and burnt flint have been unearthed, as well as over 500 pieces of bone dating from over 8000 years ago. Virtually all the tools are in pristine condition – indeed, some of the team have had their fingers cut by them as they are still so sharp.

The most significant consequence of the excavation is that we have now discovered where the communities who built the first monuments at Stonehenge once lived – something that has eluded archaeologists for the best part of two centuries. But the fact that the site also provides evidence for ritual activity in later periods suggests that the Buckingham team has also discovered a rare ‘multi-phase’ site, which was occupied over several millennia – indeed into the early medieval period.

David Jacques, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute, has been directing the excavations at Vespasian’s Camp, Amesbury, Wiltshire, since 2005.

The archaeological potential of Vespasian’s Camp first came to light as a result of David Jacques’ detailed research of the site’s estate and nearby farm records. Indeed, before his team started their excavations, there was no evidence of Vespasian’s Camp having played any significant part in the Salisbury Plain ritual landscape or its history, and the site had been generally ignored by archaeologists, who assumed that any archaeological evidence on the site had been destroyed in the course of the landscaping of the area as a park for a neighbouring country house during the course of the 18th century.

Radiocarbon dating of objects from the Buckingham-sponsored excavations now shows that this site was occupied between 7550-4700 BC, which means that the Blick Mead site was in continuous use for almost 3,000 years.

This is generating great interest from archaeologists who have long pondered the possibility of a ‘missing link’ between the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods of activity at Stonehenge. The radiocarbon dates make this the oldest ever ‘homebase’ found in the Stonehenge area and could be one of the reasons why Stonehenge is sited where it is.

The findings produced by the Buckingham-funded excavations have led English Heritage to describe Vespasian’s Camp as potentially ‘one of the pivotal places in the history of the Stonehenge landscape’.

The 7500 BC dating of Blick Mead correlates strongly with the enigmatic posts found underneath Stonehenge car park in the late 1960s, which appear to be marking this area up as somewhere of special cultural significance

A copper alloy Bronze Age dagger, found nearby, at the Bluestonehenge monument in 2009, a 5th-century Anglo-Saxon disc brooch from a nearby spring, and medieval wooden staves from the main spring also connect Blick Mead to the early Anglo-Saxon and Amesbury Abbey periods. They add to the picture of the Blick Mead area being a place associated with veneration over the longue durée.

As a result of the support from the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute, further work is planned over the next two years.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lol - there goes the infamous 'totem pole' theory!

geocur said...



The report has no impact about the likelihood of the posts having been totem poles. An unfalsifiable relatively fanciful idea , but not nearly as fanciful as others i.e mooring posts .

chris johnson said...

Reportedly the spring at Vespasian's Camp is a warm one. Would this have remained open during the tundra-like conditions imagined for this area during the last ice age?

The project leader implied that some tools found recently might pre-date the mesolithic.

Other reports suggest there are other warm springs in this region - Bath of course is famous. Might there have been a warmer microclimate. Does Greenland offer any parallels Brian?

BRIAN JOHN said...

There are very few warm or hot springs in Greenland. But lots on Iceland, of course -- with all sorts of complicated repercussions for glaciers. If there is a geothermal hot spot, it will be there regardless of what the climate up above is doing -- so yes, if there is a warm spring in a tundra region, it would probably be quite attractive to all animals, including humans.

Anonymous said...

Given its location, a significantly warmer than average chalk spring seems unlikely to me. Most shallow chalk springs maintain a fairly constant annual temperature of c.10-12 deg C

The springs at Bath are c.40degC

Sounds like archeos trying to make non existent links again
A.G.

Anonymous said...

Anon,

...more “archeos trying to make non existent links again “. The sharp flint fragments in the hands of the researcher are a common occurrence at Salisbury Plain. Read Brian's post on this:

http://brian-mountainman.blogspot.com/2009/12/clay-with-flints-and-chalky-till.html

Myris of Alexandria said...

There are 'warm' springs close to Silbury Hill.Some very nice work done on them.
The famous slate/shale bit seems to have fallen out of favour.
M.

Anonymous said...

Myris: Could you supply a reference for this work please?

Do you know what the recorded temperatures were and whether they were recorded for a full annual cycle?

cheers
A.G.

geocur said...

Silbury springs study by Steve Marshall .See British Archaeology July /August 2013 .

Myris of Alexandria said...

Please A.G. send me your email address and I shall pass on some (extensive) things from Steve (once I have his permission).
M.

chris johnson said...

This sounds very interesting!

Some time ago I referred to the extensive paper by Whitehead and Edmunds, "Palaeohydrology of the Kennet..." Ref: 12-2012. Google will produce it for you from english-heritage.org.uk.

They argue convincingly that the water table in the stonehenge era would have been higher than today with consequences for both living environment and monuments. (There are over 50 springs in the Avebury area which feed the river system).

Steve said...

A friend just told me about this exchange! You can find some of my stuff, inc the Silbury Springs article, on my website: http://www.stevemarshall.org.uk/
BTW the Blick Mead springs are certainly only 10 deg C. David Jacques knows this - the initial readings were taken on warm days and partly reflect the ambient temp.
Steve

Anonymous said...

Brian,
I just spotted a typo in my previous post. 'Slewed the results' should read 'skewed' but please change to 'distorted' as it's clearer.
Steve

chris johnson said...

This sounds very interesting!

Some time ago I referred to the extensive paper by Whitehead and Edmunds, "Palaeohydrology of the Kennet..." Ref: 12-2012. Google will produce it for you from english-heritage.org.uk.

They argue convincingly that the water table in the stonehenge era would have been higher than today with consequences for both living environment and monuments. (There are over 50 springs in the Avebury area which feed the river system).

Anonymous said...

Thanks Myris
Idon't have your e:mail address however.
Any clues to where it may be found.?

Cheers
A.G.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve
I shall have a look

Cheers
A.G.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve
I shall have a look

Brian: I saw in a recent edition of a well known Archeology magazine. A letter from our friend Mr Jamiroquai. In it he was waxing lyrical about whether or not Stonehenge had ever been completed; his arguments seemed somewhat familiar?

He didn't mention Noah's Ark however.

Cheers

Alex




Anonymous said...

the idea of the Silbury springs is just new-age wishful thinking. The chalk spur that ran down from beckhampton penning would have put these springs under 10ft of chalk before it was quarried to create the hill. It's nothing more than an accident of the creation of the hill.

chris johnson said...

10-12 degrees may not sound like much but for a reindeer on the steppes would have had a big impact. I can imagine this area being rich pickings for hunters and firmly established on the migratory radar for big mammals of all kinds.

Anonymous said...

Do we know the preferred temperature for reindeer water consumption? More imaginings!

chris johnson said...

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”

So said Albert Einstein, a considerable scientist himself.

Actually we do not need to imagine that reindeer prefer drinking water to eating snow and will travel a long way in winter to find green shoots. This is something we know.

Anonymous sneers - reminds me of someone...

Steve said...

As Anonymous (!) rightly says, before the Silbury ditch was excavated the present springs along the S side of the ditch may have been under 10ft of chalk. Since chalk is porous, the water would have continued to flow on through it, to the end of the spur. There it would emerge as springs flowing out into the low flat ground of the meadow - joining with the southward flow of the Kennet and the eastward flow of the Beckhampton Stream to eventually become the river Thames. Silbury was built on the very end of the spur. Springs still flow from underneath the mound, emerging from its SW side. In the NW corner of the ditch, water flowing up from the un-quarried ground near the interpretation board probably indicates where the natural spring-line would be if there was no ditch.

Anonymous said...


“imagination” – seeing outside the box
“imaginings” – seeing what's not in or out of the box

Anonymous said...

Which begs the question, why dig a ditch were water already flows and surrounds Silbury?

Anonymous said...

Chris,

Invoking Einstein does not fix your reindeer reasoning. If drinking out of a 10 degree faucet and feasting on green tips was important to reindeer, they would have moved to France!

geocur said...



Anon asks " why dig a ditch were water already flows and surrounds Silbury?" .

Probably related to the fact that there were a number of banks (with no ditch )in the earlier phases then four different ditches at different points in later phases .
Similar large scale mounds in Wessex like the Great barrow at Knowlton ,Conquer barrow within the Mount Pleasant henge ,the destroyed Hatfield barrow within Marden all had ditches as do many smaller mound/ barrow type monuments throughout the UK and Ireland .
The presence of a ditch at the last phase of Silbury is hardly surprising .

Gerald the Celt said...

Kostas,
I thought the ditch was the result of removing a considerable amount of chalk to raise a large mound, but I've been known to be mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Gerald the Celt,

I am not the Kostas of your comment! You are mistaken all around!

Kostas

Myris of Alexandria said...

Tsk boys enough of hiding behind nom de plums when discussing the stones.
M.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Agree, Myris -- am getting fed up with people who post anonymously. In future,will all contributors please use their own names -- or at least a nom de plume if you feel threatened by the thought police -- so that we can avoid this idiotic confusion of one Anon talking to another Anon, and nobody knowing what the hell is going on or who is who?