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Dig Blog! Training excavation online

The blog on this years annual training excavation run by Wessex Archaeology is now online at

As 15 beginners experience excavation for the first time, the blog will chart their story.

The excavation runs for two weeks, until Friday 16th September.

Recent discoveries at Avebury

The South (West Kennet) Avenue at Avebury is part of one of the greatest surviving concentrations of monuments from the Neolithic (4000-2000 BC) and Bronze Age (2400-700 BC) in Western Europe.

British Telecom cables, running alongside the road parallel to the Avenue, need updating. So Bob Davis of Wessex Archaeology was asked to work with the BT engineer to record any significant finds uncovered during the maintenance work.

While digging under the cable trench to the north end of the Avenue, Bob uncovered a small pit containing cattle bones and fragments of pottery. Similar pits had been discovered in the 1930s when Alexander Keiller carried out investigations between the stones of the Avenue and within the great henge itself.

The exact date and function of these pits has remained a mystery. The deposits follow a similar pattern, with cattle bones and pottery sherds placed deliberately within the pits, suggesting that a ritual has taken place.

The pottery in this pit, as in many others in the area, is of a type known as Mortlake pottery, dating between 3400-2500 BC.

The cattle bones are being sent for radiocarbon dating which will give useful information not only about this newly discovered pit, but also about the ones dug some 70 years ago when such precise dating tests were not available.

School children from three local primary schools were at Avebury taking part in an education project with Wessex Archaeology and World Heritage Sites. They had an unexpected treat when they were invited to handle objects fresh from the ground where they had been buried for more than 4,000 years.

See the full story at

National Archaeology Day

Saturday’s National Archaeology Day was a resounding success. Six hundred people enjoyed the many free activities on offer at Salisbury Museum organised by staff from Wessex Archaeology, the Wiltshire Conservation Centre, the Cathedral Stonemasons and the Museum. Phil Harding’s demonstration of flint knapping drew the crowds throughout the day and the Stonehenge lecture by Dr Julie Gardiner was well attended. Mike O’Leary’s ‘tall stories, short, fat and thin stories’ were very popular with the younger visitors who also proudly carried home more than 100 clay gargoyles, pebble monsters and decorated goblets at the end of their busy day.

Archaeology Rocks!

Once again Salisbury Museum is playing host to this year’s free National Archaeology Day on July 16th. Staff from Wessex Archaeology, the Wiltshire Conservation Centre and the Museum are joining forces to make this the biggest and best opportunity for everyone to enjoy archaeology at first hand. This year the theme is ’stone and glass’, so as well as the ever popular mini-digs and the chance to find out more about marine archaeology, there will be other activities with stone and glass in mind, from making a gargoyle to decorating a medieval goblet. The fun will begin at 10.00am when Phil Harding of Time Team and Wessex Archaeology opens the event. Phil will be demonstrating flint knapping throughout the day, and there will also be a chance to see the Cathedral stonemasons at work. There really will be something for everyone - from the gripping tales of storyteller Mike O’Leary to the Stonehenge lecture given by Dr Julie Gardiner.

Eight hundred people came to last year’s event, and this National Archaeology Day promises to be more popular than ever.

Excavations in Winchester

Excavations have been taking place in Jewry Street, Winchester, prior to the building of new flats, offices and a restaurant.

The site lies inside the Iron Age enclosure of Oram’s Arbour and within the Roman town of Venta Belgarum and the Saxon town of King Alfred. In the medieval period houses lined Jewry Street, the homes of tradesmen and craftsmen - amongst them weavers, bookbinders and carpenters. Archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology have uncovered a deep pit or cellar, evidently connected with the medieval buildings.

Work continues until 29th June.

Recent discoveries at Boscombe Down

The most recent excavations at Boscombe Down have thrown new light on a baffling question: why were the Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen, men with apparently strong links to Stonehenge , buried here, some 4 miles away?

The discovery of Neolithic and Bronze Age features at Boscombe Down offer an explanation. A remarkable Neolithic pit circle and a Bronze Age barrow, ring ditch and enclosure clearly made this area the focus of ritual activity, a site that belongs in the Stonehenge landscape.

Read the article "A ritual landscape at Boscombe Down"…

The Origins of Mid-Saxon Southampton

A new publication, funded by Southampton Football Club, redraws the map of Hamwic - the Saxon settlement beneath part of Southampton. The investigations reveal a rather dirty, polluted and unhealthy place, pockmarked with rubbish and cess pits, where disease and infection were daily hazards.

Excavations between 1998-2000, the most extensive single investigation yet undertaken within the Saxon settlement, were funded by Southampton Football Club prior to the building of the new Friends Provident St Marys Stadium.

They show that the Saxon town extended further north than had previously been thought. Much of the pottery that was found had been imported, showing that foreign trade was clearly already important to Saxon Hamwic.

As well as an early Saxon cemetery, traces of a street and of wattle and daub buildings were found, including the possible site of a blacksmith’s workshop.

Intriguing finds include a small skein of gold thread, and Romano-British jewellery that was already 300 years old when it was buried.

Update December 2011

This book has now sold out. If it is reprinted, or made available as an ebook, we will update this page.

Online Exhibitions

Visit our new online exhibitions section to see the display panels from some of our recent exhibitions across the UK. You can also get to our exhibitions from their project homepages (in “projects“) or from our “Learning” section.

Practical archaeology course 2005

Details of this year’s practical archaeology course are now online. You can read all about last year’s course (2004), including a diary, photos, and video coverage.

Robert Key MP appointed a Trustee and Board Member

Salisbury MP Robert Key has been appointed a Trustee and Board Member of Wessex Archaeology, based at Old Sarum.

Wessex Archaeology is Britain’s leading consultancy, working on excavation projects where there is a statutory obligation on developers of property or roads to undertake archaeological surveys, and many other heritage projects.

Robert said," I am thrilled to have joined the Wessex Archaeology team. In my childhood I collected arrowheads, old token coins and anything else my mother let me hoard. My tenth birthday treat was a picnic on top of an Iron Age barrow on Cranborne Chase. I spent hours in the old Salisbury Museum with the great curator, Hugh Shortt. Later, as Heritage Minister and then as Roads’ Minister, it was a delight to work with archaeologists. Now I will be able to put something back."

Sue Davies, Chief Executive of the charity, said “We are delighted that Robert has agreed to join our Board. He is immensely supportive of our archaeological and outreach activities. We look forward to his contributions to our organisation’s development.”

NB: The post is unpaid

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