Engineers drill hole in the Stonehenge structure

6 December 2018

University of Buckingham archaeologist David Jacques has called for an investigation after Highways Agency engineers accidentally drilled a hole through a 6,000-year-old structure at Stonehenge while carrying out a survey for the proposed tunnel.

The area, Blick Mead, is the earliest known site inhabited after the last ice age and dates back 12,000 years. Archaeologists are concerned that the planned flyover leading to the eastern tunnel entrance will cause irreparable damage to Blick Mead if the tunnel gets the go-ahead.

Highways Agency engineers have begun an investigation to monitor water levels at Blick Mead to check whether there would be any damage to remains which have been preserved in the ground if the tunnel goes ahead.

They accidentally dug a three-metre deep hole through a 6,000-year-old man-made “platform” of flint and animal bone.

The platform was built to preserve a hoof print of an auroch – extinct prehistoric cattle – revealed beneath it. Potentially there could be human footprints and remains which will be lost if the water table drops due to work on the tunnel, archaeologists believe.

Excavations have found thousands of flint tools and bones of extinct animals. The site is also important because it is where the hunter gatherers who once roamed Britain first encountered the neolithic farmers who went on to build Stonehenge. The site is believed to be one of the reasons why Stonehenge was built where it is.

David Jacques, who runs the University of Buckingham’s MA and PhD courses, the only ones in the country where students do a two-week dig in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site as part of their course, said: “We would like an investigation into how this has happened. We believe hunters considered this area to be a sacred place, even before Stonehenge. These monster cows – double the size of normal cattle – provided food for 300 people so were revered.

“It the tunnel goes ahead the water table may drop and the organic remains could be destroyed. It may be that there are footprints here which would be the earliest tangible signs of life at Stonehenge. If the remains aren’t preserved we may never be able to understand why Stonehenge was built.”