Archaeologists excavate and record holes on a daily basis. Our knowledge of sites is based on these negative voids in the ground which may or may not contain artefacts which can allow for interpretation of what they represent, how old there are and what they may tell us about the people who created them in the past.
On the occasion that structures are excavated, all we are left with are the remnants of a floor plan and some indication as to how old the building is, if we are lucky. We have no real understanding of what these structures actually looked like, how tall they were or how they were constructed. The archaeological evidence can give us clues, but no definitive answers.
Working in collaboration with Butser Ancient Farm, Wessex Archaeology has been given the unique opportunity to explore what some of the archaeological remains found on one of our sites may have looked and how it was constructed.
The construction of one of the early Neolithic houses found at CEMEX Kingsmead Quarry, Horton, Berkshire, at Butser has allowed for a collaboration between like-minded people to explore exactly how the house was constructed. Using contemporary tools and techniques, the construction aims to mirror the archaeological evidence to provide a plausible interpretation as to what the building may have looked like.
Staff from Wessex Archaeology have been involved in the initial stages of construction at Butser. Importantly, some of those who excavated the house in 2012 were present to have the opportunity to benefit from the experience of recreating the structure which they once viewed in a very different way. The experience of interacting with replica Neolithic tools gave the archaeologists a wider perspective on how the Horton house may have been constructed and the challenges the builders would have faced (including weather!).
During the day the team helped our colleagues from Butser erect the first ‘A’-frame into place, the first of five planned. They then constructed and shaped the second throughout the day with the use of the flint axes and bone tools. By the end of the day the second frame was lifted into place, despite the poor weather.
“It really helped focus my ideas on what was likely or possible in Neoltihic construction. I found the experience extremely engaging and will definitely alter my thought process when excavating such features in the future.”
Andy Sole, Wessex Archaeology
The experience clearly benefitted the staff of both organisations. Much discussion was had throughout the day on the use and construction of the tools and the accuracy of the work in relation to the archaeological record. In attendance were Elina Brook and Mark Stewart (who are both specialists in pottery and flint respectively), John Powell (who directed the site in its latter years) and Andy Sole who excavated the house in 2012.
The day was one full of engagement and knowledge-sharing, showcasing the collaborative effort that is at the core of this project.