Prehistoric ‘eco-house’ 1,300 years older than Stonehenge discovered by archaeologists ~ DAVID KEYS, Archaeology Correspondent, THE INDEPENDENT, Thursday 29 October 2015.
Academics fear that the 6,300-year-old settlement could be severely damaged by a new road tunnel.
A fallen tree which forms the wall of a Stone Age ‘eco-home’ near Stonehenge.
David Jacques/Buckingham University.
Archaeologists have discovered the oldest prehistoric building ever found in the Stonehenge landscape – but fear a new road tunnel could severely damage the site.
Dating from around 6,300 years ago – at least 1,300 years before Stonehenge – it was built immediately adjacent to a sacred Stone Age spring.
Academics have dubbed it an “eco” house because the base of a fallen tree was used as one of the walls.
The building is important as it appears to have been constructed by indigenous Mesolithic hunter-gatherers at the time when the very first semi-agricultural European-originating Neolithic settlers were arriving in the area.
The tools found in the building are Mesolithic (ie, pre-Neolithic) – but the period they date from is the dawn of the early Neolithic. Archaeological discoveries are revealing that, within just a few generations, the population at the site had adopted Neolithic tool-making traditions – or alternatively had been physically displaced by Neolithic settlers.
The potentially semi-permanent nature of the newly discovered house is suggested by the deep post-holes used to construct it and by a large cobbled area (covering at least 90 square metres – and including a pathway), immediately adjacent to it.
The cobbled path led down to a spring which Mesolithic people used as a place for making ritual offerings.
So far, archaeologists at the site, just over a mile east of Stonehenge, have found tens of thousands of objects placed by these Stone Age people in the spring – including more than 20,000 flint tools, a large sandstone animal skin smoother, a slate arrow head from Cornwall or Wales, pieces of burnt flint and more than 2,400 animal bones .
Archaeologists are now worried that the Government’s plan to improve the Stonehenge landscape by putting the A303 in a cutting and tunnel, will change the local water level and thus destroy or severely damage the spring and any important and potentially unique water-logged archaeological remains.
“I am very concerned that any reduction in the groundwater level at the spring site and elsewhere in the Avon valley might potentially be a threat to archaeologically important waterlogged organic artefacts and ancient environmental evidence,” said University of Buckingham archaeologist David Jacques, directing the excavation.
The newly discovered Stone Age dwelling is believed to have measured around five by three metres and included a sunken area measuring five square metres where animal skins were scraped and cleaned and clothes were made.
The residents also developed an innovative way of keeping warm in winter. They used hot stones, pre-heated in a hearth, as a form of central heating.
In a joint statement, Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust said: “Our understanding of the site will no doubt be enhanced by the work recently undertaken by the University of Buckingham and we are confident that its importance will be taken into consideration as the various options for the Government’s road scheme are developed. We look forward to hearing more about this important Mesolithic site and seeing the full academic results when available.”
Stonehenge: Temple near site shows evidence of a religious revolution – when Britons switched from worshipping landscape features to a solar cult ~ David Keys, THE INDEPENDENT, Sunday 6 September 2015.
Remains of buried temple may mark point of religious transformation when prehistoric society shifted from worshipping landscape to the Sun.
A huge set of Sarston stones that make up Stonehenge LBI Arch Pro
The remains of a prehistoric temple a couple of miles from Stonehenge is yielding evidence of a prehistoric religious revolution, in which ancient Britons apparently switched from the worship of landscape features like hills to some form of solar cult.
Archaeologists are making remarkable new discoveries which help demonstrate how Stonehenge ushered in a period of religious transformation in which a previous religious system appears to have been overturned and replaced by a new one.
Almost exactly a year ago The Independent revealed how the archaeologists – from Britain and Austria – had used ground-penetrating radar to discover a previously unknown prehistoric temple two miles north-east of Stonehenge. Now research over recent months and additional ground-penetrating radar survey work, carried out just last week, has revealed that the temple was even more impressive than first thought.
Archaeologists now believe that the newly discovered temple – the massive stones of which are buried underneath a slightly later prehistoric monument – was deliberately decommissioned as part of a dramatic religious transformation. The burying of the stones may conceivably have represented a switch to a solar cult after generations in which a local topographical feature – a prominent nearby hill – had potentially been a major focus of reverence.
Initially – some time in the first half of the third millennium BC and potentially before the main phase of Stonehenge was built inc2600BC – a huge probably horseshoe-shaped temple was established near what is now the village of Durrington, in Wiltshire. The 800 metre long southern and western part of the ‘horseshoe’ appears to have been made of at least 200 large standing stones, most of them around 3 metres tall and 1.5 metres wide.
So far the archaeologists, through their ground-penetrating-radar imaging system, have ‘seen’ 40 complete buried stones, some 35 broken ones and around 50 buried ‘holes’ in which stones had once stood. However, the horseshoe temple’s northern perimeter appears not to have been marked by standing stones – but instead by a curved ridge of naturally high ground (defining the western and northern edge of the site) which had been artificially steepened at some stage, potentially when the stones were erected.
If so, this artificially-steepened four metre high scarp would have looked like a low chalk cliff at the back and northern side of the temple.
The entire horseshoe arrangement faced virtually due east and appears to have been aligned with a specific and very prominent natural landmark (now known as Beacon Hill) some three miles away. Significantly, this is the same hill that the western part of the 1.9 mile long pre-Stonehenge era sacred enclosure – the so-called ‘Stonehenge Cursus’ (potentially a place for Neolithic religious processions) – is also aligned with.
It therefore now appears that this major natural feature, Beacon Hill, may well have been of greater significance in prehistoric times than previously realized. Indeed, it is conceivable that it was revered as some sort of sacred landmark – perhaps embodying a now long forgotten nature spirit or deity. Identification of prominent topographical features with divine beings or nature spirits is common in many of the world’s most ancient indigenous religious traditions.
In around 2600 BC, the Beacon-Hill-aligned cursus was finally eclipsed by the construction of a new solar cult temple – the ‘giant stones’ main phase of Stonehenge – and, in around 2500 BC, the Durrington horseshoe was decommissioned and replaced with a second solar-oriented temple, a so-called ‘henge’ monument, today known as Durrington Walls.
It appears that the stones of the original horseshoe were deliberately pulled out of their sockets and were then pushed over on their sides and deliberately buried under the southern and western part of the newly constructed earthwork embankment which linked up with the natural (and potentially already artificially scarped) curved ridge to form the roughly circular Durrington Walls henge.
It is the most dramatic example yet discovered of the precise moment a site changed from a pre ‘Stonehenge main phase’ tradition to a ‘Stonehenge solar phase’ one.
Normally, in Britain and around the world, such religious changes are only known from much later periods when historical records were kept – such as the change-over from Roman sun worship to Christianity or from Arabian paganism to Islam or from Catholicism to Protestantism in Reformation Europe.