Along the road to Stonehenge: investigations of the Stonehenge Avenue and within the World Heritage Site
by Andrew B. Powell
with contributions by Phil Harding, L Higbee, Rob Ixer, Matt Leivers, Inés López-Dóriga, Lorraine Mepham and David Norcott, and illustrations by Rob Goller.
Archaeological mitigation works undertaken for the Stonehenge Environmental Improvements Project involved the excavation of two sections across the Stonehenge Avenue within the line of the former A344 road. This showed that while the Avenue’s banks had been levelled during the road’s construction it appears to have had little impact on its ditches, which in form, fills and contents closely match previously excavated sections on either side of the road. Excavation of the edge of the Heel Stone ditch also showed limited impact.
Works in the area of Airman’s Corner, close to the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre, which included the lifting, restoration and relocation of the Grade II listed Airman’s Cross memorial, and of a milestone, revealed a large quarry-like feature. This may have provided embankment material for the Salisbury to Devizes road (A360) at the point where it crossed a dry valley, as part of improvements to the road when it was turnpiked c. 1760. At some later date, the partly infilled quarry was used as a burnbaking site, at which turves were burnt to produces ashes for spreading on land newly turned from pasture to arable, a change in agricultural practice that was to cause lasting damage to many archaeological sites in the Stonehenge landscape.
Alternative Altar Stones? Carbonate-cemented micaceous sandstones from the Stonehenge Landscape
by Rob Ixer, Richard Bevins, Peter Turner, Matthew Power and Duncan Pirrie .
The six-tonne recumbent Altar Stone is perhaps the most enigmatic of all the Stonehenge bluestones, differing markedly from the others in size, tonnage, lithology and origin. It has therefore had more than its fair share of speculation on all of these aspects and many questions remain: was it always recumbent, was it a singleton or half a twin, where did it come from? Clearly it is not from the Preseli Hills hence the debate as to its geographical origins for over a century. However, any provenancing of the Altar Stone must rely on a detailed and accurate lithological and petrographical description. New descriptions of material labelled ‘Altar Stone’ held in museum collections and a re-evaluation of suggested Altar Stone debitage using automated scanning electron microscopy and linked energy dispersive analysis using QEMSCAN technology suggests that modification of the published petrographical descriptions is needed. A new ‘typical Altar Stone’ description is provided including the presence of early cementing barite and a better characterisation of the clay content. These new data should continue to narrow the search for the geographical origin of the Altar Stone, one that is expected to be at the eastern end of the Senni Formation outcrop, an outcrop that reaches as far east as Abergavenny in the Welsh Marches.