Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Archaeological dig near Stonehenge uncovers sink hole of evidence from Neolithic period

Date:
November 27, 2013
Source:
Kingston University
Summary:
An archaeology team has delved back into a Neolithic site at Damerham, Hampshire, and uncovered a sink hole of material that may hold vital information about the plant species that thrived there 6,000 years ago. Scientists say the find was completely unexpected and had initially confused the team digging on the farmland.

An archaeology team led by a Kingston University academic has delved back into a Neolithic site at Damerham, Hampshire, and uncovered a sink hole of material that may hold vital information about the plant species thriving there 6,000 years ago.
Credit: Image courtesy of Kingston University

An archaeology team led by an academic from London's Kingston University has delved back into a Neolithic site at Damerham, Hampshire, and uncovered a sink hole of material that may hold vital information about the plant species that thrived there 6,000 years ago.

Dr Helen Wickstead said the find was completely unexpected and had initially confused the team digging on the farmland. This is the sixth year of the project at Damerham, located about 15 miles from the iconic British monument Stonehenge, with four areas of a temple complex excavated during the summer. The surprise came in the largest of the openings, approximately 40 metres long, where careful extractions revealed a layer of uncharacteristic orange sand and clay. Typically the archaeological survey would involve mapping and cataloguing such finds as bone, pottery and tool-making waste fragments.

"The site at Damerham is on chalk land, so we don't often find materials like this that capture and preserve the plant remains -- pollen or phytoliths -- from a specific time period," Dr Wickstead explained. "The sink hole contained orange sand with a yellow and grey clay and we are very hopeful that, within this material, there will be evidence of plant life that will help us continue to piece together the puzzle of human habitation on this significant site."

It was evident that prehistoric people living in the area had also come across the sink hole and excavated the material during their own construction work, Dr Wickstead said. A pile of matching waste material was also seen at one of the other mounds. "We didn't expect to find this and suspect it would have surprised the original architects of the site too," she said. "Moments of unexpected discovery could have had cultural significance for prehistoric people. The henge itself was a focus for rituals, life and death, so questions about the impact such a discovery would have had on their activity will be interesting to consider."

The prehistoric temple complex at Damerham is unusual because of the number of structures that are focused in one area, Dr Wickstead added. "The diversity of burial architecture here is intriguing," she said. "What is special about this place that meant generation after generation returned to the site to live, hunt, build and commemorate life?"

Various scientific techniques, including geophysical imaging which uses electrical currents to test the density of materials below the surface, were employed during the project. Kingston University MA Heritage student Jack Bartley joined Dr Wickstead on site to take part in the field walking survey.

"Once the field was clear of crops, we were able to walk across sections in search of items that will have been turned over by the plough," Jack explained. "This is important because it helps researchers understand how people used the land by examining what they left behind. We've been using GPS satellite technology to measure the search zones systematically. It's been great to be out in the field experiencing a real archaeological dig, especially since my dissertation is examining communities of interest, such as those involved in archaeology," the 24 year old from Surbiton added.

Evidence of archaeological remains at Damerham was first detected in 2003 when English Heritage's senior aerial survey investigator Martyn Barber spotted crop marks in a photograph. The different colours visible in the crops indicated that there were historical earthworks just beneath the soil and Dr Wickstead teamed up with Mr Barber to begin the long process of trying to find out more about the site.

"During the six years since we first opened the site, we've not only involved the local community but also brought together expertise from a range of specialists from geochemical analysts to artists, to make sure we make the most of the opportunity while we can," Dr Wickstead explained. "Doing the dig is only a tiny portion of the work required to document these important sites, but it is the more urgent part because erosion by farming and other environmental factors will gradually diminish what's there."

Dr Wickstead, who is based in Kingston University's Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, suspects the Damerham site holds many more secrets about human life in the Neolithic period. Although excavations are expensive and rely on funding from a variety of organisations, she hopes her team has demonstrated how important it is to stage similar projects in the future.

"The clues to earlier human life are all around us in the landscape and I would love to return and undertake a larger-scale dig at Damerham," Dr Wickstead said. "For now, the team will be examining and compiling the data already gathered and, as well as analysing the soil samples, plotting the artefacts and mapping the earthworks, we may also be able to undertake some gene sequencing on the bone fragments we found. All of this will help tell us more about how the people of this period lived and died in Damerham more than 6,000 years ago."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Kingston University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Kingston University. "Archaeological dig near Stonehenge uncovers sink hole of evidence from Neolithic period." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131127110158.htm>.
Kingston University. (2013, November 27). Archaeological dig near Stonehenge uncovers sink hole of evidence from Neolithic period. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131127110158.htm
Kingston University. "Archaeological dig near Stonehenge uncovers sink hole of evidence from Neolithic period." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131127110158.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

1000-Year-Old Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Scotland

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 14, 2014) A hoard of Viking artifacts dating back over 1,000 years is discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins